Eversky.org A Dose of Asian Pop Culture & Entertainment

6Jan/080

My Tutor Friend 2 (2006)

My Tutor Friend 2

Korean Title: 동갑내기 과외하기 레슨 2 (Gonggabnaegi Gwaoihagileseun 2)
Vietnamese Title: Anh Ban Gia Su
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama, School
Starring: Lee Chung Ah, Park Ki-Woong
Screenwriters: In Eun-Ah, Jo Joong-Hoon
Directors: Kim Ho-Jeong, Ji Gil-Wung
MPAA: PG-13

Synopsis
Junko, a Japanese of Korean ancestry, comes to Korea to find her sweetheart. She finds lodging at a guest house that provides room and board. Unfortunately, the room that she is supposed to stay in belongs to the owner’s son, Jong-Man. On her first night in Seoul, Junko is forced to share the room with Jong-man. Junko wants to find another place, but the owner desires to keep Junko as a guest and offers Junko free Korean lessons from Jong-man. It is going to be some adventure for Junko in Seoul!
Source: Korean Film

Rating: A- (Great)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: "My Tutor Friend 2" follows the success of the previous movie. This sequel has similar concept and charm as the first movie, but features a brand new cast.

It is rare for a sequel movie to be greater than the first, and for me this sequel is just so. The plot in this movie is also better developed than the first and thus has more heart than the first movie. The main cast in this movie is truly wonderful, and sparks fly whenever the two appeared together on screen. As first, I couldn't determine whether I like Park Ki-Woong, but quickly I came to appreciate his fine acting ability and his portrayal as Jong-Man, a guy with tough outward exterior and a soft heart. He carried a lot of weight in this movie, and largely because of him that the movie is so enjoyable. Down to his characteristic facial expressions, he has managed to make his character came off as humorous, lovable, and genuine. Lee Chung Ah also portrayed well as a sassy yet at time clueless female protagonist. Another thing that I love about this movie is that it has a great supporting cast, from Jong-Man's two mischevious best friends down to the adorable exchange student, George. This movie is also better when you watch it a second time because you will also catch some important scenes that you missed the first time you watched it. If only, all movie sequels were like this.

26Jun/071

Love and Honor (2006)

Love and Honor

Japanese Title: 武士の一分 (Bushi no Ichibun, A Samurai's Honor)
Genre: Period, Drama, Romance, samurai
Starring: Kimura Takuya, Dan Rei, Bando Mitsugoro, Sasano Takashi, Ogata Ken
Screenwriter: Fujisawa Shuuhei
Director: Yamada Yoji
MPAA: R

Synopsis: Though he is low rank with modest means, young samurai Mimura Shinnojo (Kimura Takuya) has a fairly happy and stable life with his loving wife Kayo (Dan Rei). All this comes crashing down, however, when Shinnojo, as the lord's food taster, eats poisoned shellfish and becomes blind. Distressed by his inability to support the household, he turns violent and resentful, and even considers ending his own life to redeem his name. At the urging of unsympathetic relatives, Kayo seeks the assistance of captain Shimada Toya (Bando Mitsugoro), who uses his influence to help Shinnojo retain his income and rank. As the rumors begin to get louder, Shinnojo becomes increasingly troubled that he may be losing his wife and honor to another man.
Source: YesAsia

Rating: A+ (Masterpiece)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: Love and Honor is the third and final installment of Yamada Yoji's samurai trilogy based on the novels written by Fujisawa Shuuhei. However, Love and Honor stands alone from the other two as being the best of the trilogy. In the movie, Mimura struggles for honor in the face of many challenges: his blindness and the rumors about his wife. The movie's portrayal of this was superb. People shouldn't expect fighting scenes just because it involves samurai. After all, it is a drama and it does uphold that genre. I found myself crying in buckets at some parts of the movie, but that doesn't mean this movie is full of melodramatic silliness. The title "Love and Honor" fits the movie well because they are something that Mimura has to fight for in the end. The acting were especially wonderful and everybody were perfect in their role. People who watched the 80s samurai movies will recognize an old face, Ken Ogata. I didn't think there were anything lacking in this movie. It does take patience to watch it, however. I love everything about this movie and it is something that everyone will enjoy.

26Jun/072

Ooku (2006)

Ooku

A.K.A.: Oh-Oku - The Women of the Inner Palace
Japanese Title: 大奥
Genre: Period, Drama, Romance
Starring: Nakama Yukie, Igawa Haruka, Nishijima Hidetoshi, Oikawa Mitsuhiro
Screenwriter: Hayashi Tou
Director: Asano Taeko
MPAA: R

Synopsis: Set in 1713, during the reign of child Shogun, Tokugawa Ietsugu, Ooku addresses the scandals of the inner palace where the Shogun's wife and concubines reign. While men battle on the battlefield and in the courts for power, the women themselves also battle within their own chambers for power as well as love. Lady Gekoin, the previous Shogun's concubine and the current Shogun's mother, supposedly has an illicit affair with court advisor Lord Echizen. Lady Eijima, Lady Gekoin's closest friend, knows of this and keeps it a secret from Lady Gekoin's rival, Lady Teneiin, the late Shogun's widow. Things become more complicated as Lady Teneiin becomes aware of the affair and plans to trap Lady Eijima into confessing to Lady Gekoin's crime by hiring a Kabuki actor to seduce her.
Source: Eversky.org

Rating: A+ (Masterpiece)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: Ooku is a wonderful period movie about love and politics within the doors of the inner palace of the Tokugawa shogunate. Although the viewer is first introduced to the two main parties in the beginning of the movie, Lady Gekoin and Lady Teneiin, the true main character is in fact Lady Eijima played by Nakama Yukie. Nakama Yukie fits perfectly into her role as Lady Eijima, who is not only loyal but doesn't easily fall prey to traps. Throughout this movie, Lady Eijima learns two things that she has never experienced before: love and intimacy. The movie is more about her transformation as she ventures through the palace and outside the palace, although it does provide viewers an insight into the happenings of the inner palace.

I really enjoyed watching every bit of this movie, and I thought that it was simply beautiful. It's one of those movies where we have to pay attention to everything. The pace of the movie can seem slow for most people with a lot of conversations held throughout the movie, but I didn't think so at all. And people will surely appreciate the love that blossoms in this movie, and I'm not referring to the affair between Lady Gekoin and Lord Echizen. Everything was subtle, but I can feel that it was true love. Not to mention, the costumes and the scenery was simply magnificent.

The ending was just right and I didn't feel like anything was missing at all. I really recommend this movie for people to watch. It'll provide you an insight to the minds and hearts of the women in the inner palace during the Tokugawa shogunate. It's a movie of politics, friendship, and love.

24Jun/070

Nightmare Detective (2006)

Nightmare Detective

Japanese Title: 悪夢探偵 (Akumu Tantei)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Supernatural
Starring: Matsuda Ryuhei, Hitomi, Ando Masanobu, Osugi Ken
Screenwriter: Tsukamoto Shinya
Director: Tsukamoto Shinya
MPAA: R

Synopsis: Mysterious deaths burst out on scene in Tokyo with victims brutally injuring themselves till their death. An investigation lead the detectives to an unknown phone number starting with the number '0.' A witness tells the detectives that before one of the victims died, it seemed like he was having a nightmare. Detective Kirishima (hitomi) refused to believe that the deaths were simply suicide and contemplates that a killer who can manipulate people in their dreams is on the loose. While gathering information, Kirishima and her colleague Wakamiya (Ando Masanobu), stumbles upon one about Kagenuma, a man whom can enter people's dream. Now, they must seek out his help and find an end to the nightmare that plagues Tokyo.
Source: Eversky.org

Rating: A (Excellent)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: Nightmare Detective is a movie that is a refresher on the Japanese horror movie scene. More than just the usual hack-and-slash horror movies, it takes a different approach using the mystery behind dreams as its approach. The movie is not entirely about dreams, however, because it also focuses on the inner depths of human nature. Most of the characters in the movie have an inner-self that they hide from the outside world and watching their inner selves unfold is the most shocking.

The acting done by the cast is superb with Matsuda befitting the role of the nightmare detective, who is everything but happy. The nightmare detective is negative, antisocial, and suicidal to boot, and Matsuda plays his role well. His occasional scowls and negative comments can be rather humorous despite the movie being horror. Hitomi's role as Kirishima is only mediocre; she is neither good nor bad. Viewers probably won't be able to sympathize with her character much. The acting overall done by the actors and actresses is excellent though.

One of the downside of the movie is that some answers are left to be unanswered in the end. However, on further speculation, it seems that the director is planning on creating the sequel as well as a third installment to wrap things up, and hopefully answer all previous questions that are addressed in the first movie.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this movie. Viewers should be forewarned that there are rather gruesome scenes, but it's nothing that might give you 'nightmares.' This is one of the better movies in Japanese horror, and I'm definitely waiting for its sequel set to be released next year.

20May/070

Sway (2006)

Yureru

Japanese Title: ゆれる (Yureru)
Genre: Drama, Family
Screenwriter: Miwa Nishikawa
Director: Miwa Nishikawa
Starring: Odagiri Joe, Kagawa Teruyuki
MPAA: R

Synopsis
When successful Tokyo photographer, Takeru (Odagiri Joe), returns home for his mother's funeral, he faces problems he has been running away from for several years. He comes face to face with his older brother, Minoru (Kagawa Teruyuki), and his childhood friend Chieko. A hiking trip with Minoru and Chieko leads to a fatal result when Chieko falls from a suspension bridge to her death and Minoru is put on trial for murder. This forces Takeru to reconsider his fast-paced life and the slow, traditional life he came from.
Source: Eversky.org

Rating: A (Excellent)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: Yureru unravels truth about human nature with its rather simple storytelling. Although it circles mainly around a courtroom investigation on a woman's death, it is neither courtroom drama nor murder mystery. Instead, it seeks to find out what lies underneath human skin. An investigation into Minoru's role in Chieko's death provides some insight, but what matters here is not the truth but trust, perception, and how the human can sway so easily from the truth. Characters and relationship are stripped down to their core and what the viewer shockingly see is selfishness, fragility, and resentment.

Odagiri Joe fits perfectly in the role of Takeru as a confused, swaying Tokyo photographer with forgotten memories of his hometown. And Kagawa Teruyuki is great in his role as Takeru's older, Minoru, who simply stays bound in the hometown working for his family's gas station with no aspirations of his own. Their personalities contrast and their relationship is tense beneath after years of very little contact and unspoken words. The two brothers go hiking with Chieko with her ultimately falling to her death and Takeru watching from afar. However, trust begins to sway in the courtroom as Takeru gets mixed feelings of what he thinks he sees and what he truly sees.

Yureru is a great movie about the human trust and perception. Sometimes what we think we see is not what we see in reality. Our memories can be clouded by hate and resentment. It makes you really question human testimony in the courtroom. However, this movie is more about family ties and how one event can cause the family relations to slip and waver. What or who is the one that swayed in the end? The bridge, or the man?

6May/070

My Father’s Ocean, My Sky (2006)

Chichi no Umi, Boku no Sora

Japanese Title: 父の海、僕の空 (Chichi no Umi, Boku no Sora)
Genre: Drama, Family
Starring: Takizawa Hideaki, Takahashi Keiko, Yamazaki Tsutomu, Abe Asami, Miyazaki Aoi
MPAA: PG

Synopsis
Kyouhei (Takizawa Hideaki), living in Tokyo, is working day-by-day to support himself and his dream of becoming a musician. Upon quitting his job, he resorts to selling his prized eletric guitar so that he could pay his rent or risk getting kicked out. In a fit, he returns home and on the way, he receives a phone call from his father whom he had an argument with before leaving him. He decides against going home and meets Susumi, his father's friend, on the way back. She notifies him that his father is suffering from cancer and might not be able to live long. As a result, he decides to give up his dream of becoming a musician and faces his father once more.
Source: Eversky.org

Rating: A- (Great)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: This Japanese movie is a rarity in its attempt to describe the relationship between a father a son as well as the hardships in reaching one's dream. Kyouhei leaves home to reach for his dream but he gets lost along the way and because of his pride, he couldn't return home to his father. However, he uses his father's sickness as an excuse to temporarily retire from his dream and to face the problems he had been trying to run away from. This is something that anyone, not just men, can relate to when watching this movie. Kyouhei goes through a major character development upon returning home from a kid to a full-fledged adult. What I love best about this movie is the changes that Kyouhei goes through and the things he learned from his father. Though his father is no composer, his father strives to write a song for his late wife, something that touches Kyouhei's heart and everybody hearts as well. At first, I didn't like Kyouhei much because of his attitude, but as he changed I slowly liked him more and more. The emotions depicted in this movie is such a tear-jerker that I couldn't help but cry when it got near the ending. There's something that anyone can learn from this movie, so it's definitely not something to miss.

8Mar/070

Sukitomo (2006)

Sukitomo

Japanese Title: スキトモ
Genre: Drama, Friendship, Slash
Starring: Saitou Takumi, Aiba Hiroki, Komatsu Airi
MPAA: PG-13

Synopsis
The young and earnest Tomokazu (Saitou Takumi) is in his third year of university and a member of the boxing team. He has a close friendship with freshman Yoshiki (Aiba Hiroki), whom he sees as a little brother. Little does he know, however, Yoshiki's feelings for him run a lot deeper. To add to the confusion, Tomokazu's stepsister Misao (Komatsu Airi) also secretly likes him and becomes jealous of his relationship with Yoshiki. What will Tomokazu do when he finds out their true feelings?

Rating: C- (Average)
Rewatch Factor: Low
Comment: When will there ever be a BL movie that's actually good like The King and the Clown, Gohatto, or Big Bang Love, Juvenile A? Not likely, at least not in this movie. Sukitomo is what I would call an average movie. Besides a few touches and a hug, there's really nothing going on between the two main male leads. I'm not saying that there needs to be full-blown sex for it to be BL (heck, if I wanted sex I would watch porn, which I don't), but it's all about the presentation. The story is just average and typical. The pace is average. Everything just seems average, and I find it boring. I'm not a great fan of boy-boy-girl love triangles, because it's always the girl that's the annoying one since she is the third wheel. And I hate annoying girls. Well, I only like this movie because it has a happy ending. Nobody died (fortunately), but there wasn't much else. Honestly, I enjoyed it, giggled through it, drooled over it because Aiba Hiroki is so adorable, but there really wasn't much else to this movie. There isn't any substance or depth. If people just wanted to watch a movie to kill time, they can watch this movie. No brain cells will be harmed while watching this movie. I expected a bit more out of this movie (why is Tomokazu so dense?!), but it was just average. No matter how cute Aiba is or how hot Saitou is, that isn't going to make this a good movie.

6Mar/070

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (2006)

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A

Japanese Title: 46億年の恋 (46-Okunen no Koi, 4.6 Billion Year Love)
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Surreal, Homosexual
Starring: Ando Masanobu, Matsuda Ryuhei
Screenwriters: Ikki Kajiwara and Hisao Maki
Director: Takashi Miike
MPAA: R

Synopsis
Tension grows strong in an all-boys juvenile detention facility at the admittance of two men prosecuted for murder. The strong and aggresive, Kazuki Shiro (Ando Masanobu), and the pretty and passive, Ariyoshi Jun (Matsuda Ryuhei). The quiet and passive Jun is attracted to the aggressive Shiro who has tattoos all over his body. However, Shiro is found lying dead in the shower one day. On top of Shiro's body sits Ariyoshi Jun strangling on Shiro's neck and then letting go. Three words escape Jun's mouth: "I...dit it."
Source: Eversky.org

Rating: A+ (Masterpiece)
Rewatch Factor: High
Comment: First, I have no clue why some fans of the famous director, Takashi Miike, said that this movie is garbage out of the other movies he has directed. Now, I may not watch Takashi's other movies but this movie is definitely not garbage. It takes time and patience to digest this movie, which means rewatching it. When I watched this movie, I was fascinated by the beautiful visuals and the tension-wrenching plot. Garbage? Far from it. Every scene is itself a symbol, and if a person doesn't notice those scenes, the movie will seem a bit confusing. The movie shows a great contrast between Shiro and Jun, the aggressive force and the passive force. The contrast is wonderfully presented in the movie using symbols such as the space shuttle and the pyramid. The only thing I could actually see wrong with this movie is the fact that it is not chronologically in order, but I believe Takashi intended to be that way so that everything ties in the end. Because the movie jumps back and forth between past and present, people might feel a bit frustrated because they won't know if what they are seeing is the past and present. I experienced this as well but patience is key. I actually like the fact that it's not in order because it fits so well with the nature of this movie, and it just goes to show that reality isn't orderly like we think it is. It is a state of disorder. Obviously, this movie far from being orderly. People just need to look beyond the pretty visuals and see the meaning behind them. I doubt Takashi put those scenes there because they are eye-catching. This movie is a masterpiece whether people will believe it or not. Don't just watch this movie; understand it, feel it.

12Jan/070

Fly, Daddy, Fly (2006)

Fly Daddy Fly

Korean Title: 플라이 대디 (Peul-lai Dae-di)
Genre: Drama, Family, Life
Starring: Lee Moon Shik, Lee Jun Ki, Poppin Hyeon Joon, Lee Yeon Soo, Kim So Eun
Screenwriter: Choi Jong-Tae
Director: Choi Jong-Tae
MPAA: PG-13

Synopsis
An ordinary businessman in his forties, Jang Ga Pil (Lee Moon Shik) returns home one day to find his daughter sexually molested by high school boxing star, Kang Tae Wook. Realizing that he has neither the money nor the background, Ga Pil couldn't stand up for his daughter like he said he would. With his father-daughter ties being threatened, he realizes that he must do something. He finally resorts to appear at Tae Wook's high school in an attempt to stab the guy but instead encounters another student, Go Seung Suk. Seung Suk agrees to teach Ga Pil how to box so that Ga Pil can teach Tae Wook a lesson and earn back his dignity as a father.
Source: iHeartJunKi.com

Rating: A- (Great)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: At first this sounds like a typical hero story where an unlikely guy goes to prove himself and probably ends up victorious in the end. The bad side is that it is just that kind of movie. The good side is that it has other elements that seperates it from other movies of similar genre. There are rarely any movies that portray a father-daughter relationship where a father is willing to risk his life to protect his daughter in such extreme ways. This movie has it and that's one of its key points. This movie does at a great job at emphasizing that Ga Pil used to be the average man working in an average company and loves his family very much. He doesn't deserve to come home one day finding out that his daughter was beat up by a bunch of punks. He doesn't know what to do especially when it's obvious that the punk's family is higher in status than him. Lee Moon Shik does a great job at portraying this father role. I could seriously feel his frustration at his own failure to protect his only daughter. Not only that, but Ga Pil's relationship with Seung Suk is like friends or even like a father and son. Seung Suk teaches Ga Pil to fight so that Ga Pil can regain his confidence and dignity. Seung Suk's past is revealed in the middle of the movie and that is one powerful and emotional scene. I think that Lee Jun Ki does a fantastic job at portraying Seung Suk, a mysterious adolescent with a painful and traumatizing past. One of the movie's highlights is the acting by these two main leads. It's true that the basic plot isn't anything original but it's the elements and other details that sets this movie apart from the rest. This movie is very enjoyable and a person doesn't really have to think much when watching it. It's a great movie that anyone can watch with their friends and family.

6Jan/070

Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)

Curse of the Golden Flower

A.K.A. The City of Golden Armor
Chinese Title: 满城尽带黄金甲, 滿城盡帶黃金甲 (Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia)
Vietnamese Title: Hoang Kim Giap
Genre: Action, Drama, Period, Historical, Adventure
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou
Screenwriters: Yimou Zhang and Yu Cao
Director: Yimou Zhang
MPAA: PG-13

Synopsis
China, Later Tang Dynasty, 10th Century.
On the eve of the Chong Yang Festival, golden flowers fill the Imperial Palace. The Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) returns unexpectedly with his second son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou). His pretext is to celebrate the holiday with his family, but given the chilled relations between the Emperor and the ailing Empress (Gong Li), this seems disingenuous.
For many years, the Empress and Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), her stepson, have had an illicit liaison. Feeling trapped, Prince Wan dreams of escaping the palace with his secret love Chan (Li Man), the Imperial Doctor's daughter.
Meanwhile, Prince Jai, the faithful son, grows worried over the Empress's health and her obsession with golden chrysanthemums. Could she be headed down an ominous path?
Source: Tribute

Rating: A- (Great)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: I watched "The Banquet" first before I watched "Curse of the Golden Flower". Thus, this movie reminds me a lot of "The Banquet", essentially both of these movies focus on the same tale that is a tale of love and betrayal. However, "Curse of the Golden Flower" leaves a deeper impression on my mind than "The Banquet". First, the sceneries, costumes, and decorations in this movie are all much grander and more elaborate than "The Banquet". I was informed that the battle scene alone took about two months and a thousand real soldiers to complete and with a budget of $45 million it is the most expensive Chinese film up to date. Perhaps, with all of those special attentions to the backgrounds and sceneries that make this movie so powerful. Throughout the movie I felt I was sucked in another world. Secondly, unlike "The Banquet" I did make an emotional connection with the major characters of this movie. I sympathized with the Empress and earnestly rooting for Prince Jai. Thirdly, this is a well directed movie. Every scenes has a smooth transition into another scene, thus I didn't experience the "lost" feeling and was able to keep track of the storyline. Finally, this movie has great cast. Chow Yun-Fat is convincing as the powerful and ruthless Emperor. Gong Li is captivating as a strong but fragile Empress while Jay Chou effortless pull-off the role of the loyal prince. All in all, this is a must-see epic historical film.