Eversky.org A Dose of Asian Pop Culture & Entertainment

28Nov/080

Suddenly I Wanna Cry (2008)

Bong Dung Muon Khoc

Vietnamese Title: Bong Dung Muon Khoc
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Starring: Tang Thanh Ha, Luong Manh Hai, Thanh Thuy, Nguyen Van Hung, Hieu Hien
Screenwriter: Vu Ngoc Dang
Director: Vu Ngoc Dang
Episodes: 35
MPAA: PG

Synopsis
Life is unexpected. There are events that suddenly occur, and because of them our life is forever changed. The surprises that life brought for us, good or bad, bewildered us. In that moment of bewilderment, we suddenly started to cry...

This is a story about two people whose life begins to take a drastic change after an encounter one faithful night. Bao Nam is a 21 year-old and good-looking guy. His favorite past times include partying, spending his parents' money, and more partying. One night while Bao Nam was drunk he got into trouble with a local gang and was rescued by Truc. Truc is an 18 year-old, generous, and strong-willed girl who makes a living by selling used book on the street. Truc loves to be surround by books even though she is illiterate. Her dream is to save enough money so that she can open a small bookstore. Later, she was given a chance to realize her dream when Bao Nam's parents asked to make a deal with her--to teach their son how to become a decent and responsible human being in exchange for money to open a small bookstore...
Source: Eversky.org

Rating: A (Excellent)
Rewatch Factor: High
Comment: This is the second drama that was written and directed by Vu Ngoc Dang, the first one being "Tuyet Nhiet Doi" or "Tropical Snow". Like the first one, this one also focus around an old premise in Asian dramas, poor girl meets rich guy. Despite the overused premise, the drama itself is highly entertaining to watch, and this is all attributed to the great script writing and directing of Vu Ngoc Dang. I appreciated that this drama has content that can easily enjoy by people of any age, and that there is a lot of substances behind all the glam. It speaks a lot when my dad who hasn't show much interest in watching drama became glued to the the television screen when watching this drama. It all thanks to the many well thought-out comedic moments that were written in every episode, which make it seems like less of a drama and more of a sitcom. I also appreciated the fact that this drama is keeping an honest portrayal in featuring many facets of life in the current Viet Nam; not trying to include something that is unrelated or unrealistic to the Vietnamese culture for the sake of trend. Last but not least, I appreciated that the female protagonist in this drama like in "Tuyet Nhiet Doi" while poor is not your typical damsel-in-distress, and that she doesn't simply wait for "prince charming" to rescue her, she instead rescued him first.

The cast selection was also excellent in this drama. Every actors and actresses seems to play an important role and has significant contributions to the success of this drama, especially the two leads. I saw tremendous improvements in Tang Thanh Ha's acting ability from the drama "Huong Phu Sa" to this. I knew she has big star potentials when I was watching "Huong Phu Sa", and I believed that her acting ability will improve with time and practice. She didn't disappointed me. In this drama, I can see that she is able to act with more ease and naturalness. There is not one moment while I was watching that I separated out Tang Thanh Ha and her character that she played. As far as I know, they are one. The same goes for Luong Manh Hai, he is very charismatic onscreen and his acting became more natural and less forced.

All in all, this is a wonderful drama for any age. If you're a fan of Vu Ngoc Dang, Tang Thanh Ha, or Luong Manh Hai then you definitely don't want to pass this drama by. Like the title of this drama, you will suddenly find yourself in tears while watching this drama, whether it is due to overwhelming happiness or sadness.

9Aug/080

Red Cliff (2008)

Red Cliff

A.K.A.: The Battle of Red Cliff
Chinese Title: 赤壁 (Chi Bi)
Vietnamese Title: Tran Chien Xich Bich
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Period, Historical
Starring: Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Jona Chin, Chang Chen, Zhao Wei
Screenwriter: John Woo, Chen Han, Sheng Heyu
Director: John Woo
MPAA: R

Synopsis
Based on Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms--Battle of Red Cliffs and events during the End of Han Dynasty and immediately prior to the period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China. Red Cliff is to be released in two parts totaling over four hours in length, with the first part premiering in July 2008 and the second in January 2009.

In 208 A.D., in the final days of the Han Dynasty, shrewd Prime Minster Cao Cao convinced the fickle Emperor Han the only way to unite all of China was to declare war on the kingdoms of Xu in the west and East Wu in the south. Thus began a military campaign of unprecedented scale, led by the Prime Minister, himself. Left with no other hope for survival, the kingdoms of Xu and East Wu formed an unlikely alliance. Numerous battles of strength and wit ensued, both on land and on water, eventually culminating in the battle of Red Cliff. During the battle, two thousand ships were burned, and the course of Chinese history was changed forever.
Source: IMDb

Rating: A (Excellent)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: A much anticipated movie from the critically acclaimed Chinese film director and producer, John Woo, that does live up to the hype. Being a fan of the history of the Three Kingdoms and the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (RTK), I was awaiting to watch this movie with caution as I am afraid that it will be butchered in some way. Fortunately, I can safely said now that this movie pretty much live up to my expectation. The cast that was selected for the most part fitted very well in the characters that they played (Takeshi makes a dashing Zhuge Liang), the script was well written, and the movie was beautifully directed. Many RTK fans will find that the movie does not follow closely the story from the novel, nevertheless, it stays true with the overall gist of the Three Kingdom story. Also, fans of RTK and action fans alike will be very satisfied with the movie as they watched many of the epic battles being brought to live in front of their eyes.

If you are looking for that one epic war film to see, don't pass out on Red Cliff--you will not be disappointed. Even if you are not an RTK fan, you too will enjoy the movie and most likely to become one after the movie.

Hopefully, the second part of Red Cliff will be on the same par with the first part, if not better.

27Mar/081

Goi Giac Mo Ve (2007)

Goi Giac Mo Ve

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance, School, Slice-of-Life
Starring: Minh Hang, Huynh Dong, Ngan Khanh, Tan Phat
Screenwriters: Hoang Anh Group
Director: Xuan Cuong
Episodes: 66
MPAA: PG-13

Synopsis
Goi Giac Mo Ve, roughly translated in English as "Calling Dreams to Return", is a drama about the lives of the people on a small and developing island called "Long Hai". In particular, the drama follows the lives of four young high school students named Phung, Quan, Vy, and Minh. Phung is a clumsy girl, who does not excel in many things from academic to appearance, despite coming from a well-to-do family. On the other hand, Quan (the "bad boy") comes from a poor family, who always struggling with work and school. Vy is the "rose with thorns", in school she uphold the image of the popular, well like, and perfect student. She always striving to better herself and to escape her family background, no matter the cost. Finally, Minh is the richest and most popular guy in school, who seems to have a Prince Charming Complex--he likes to rescue damsels in distress and often are undecided about his romantic feelings.

One day, the lives of these four high school students along with their dreams began to change when there was talk of a plan to build a resort on the island. What will happen to the once humble and peaceful island? What will happen to the people on the island? And what will become of Phung, Quan, Vy, and Minh when they began to see there exist other worlds outside of the island that they called home?
Source: Eversky.org

Rating: A- (Great)
Rewatch Factor: High
Comment: It has been a while that I become excited and addicted to a Vietnamese drama. The fact that I finished this 66-episodes drama in just four days is truly a testament of how much I enjoyed watching this drama. Unlike, some of the recent Viet dramas that I seen that was heavily influenced by the "Korean wave", this drama never try to be something that it is not. I appreciate the earnest portrayal that this drama gives about the less-than-glamorous life of many people who still live in poor area in Viet Nam, especially people who live on island where the main way to make money is through fishing. Despite being a drama that mainly focuses on teens and teens' issues, it does not come off as superficial or "conjured up". There is a lot of hearts and laughters in this drama, all came very natural. From the conversations high school students have with each other to everyday conversation between parents and their kids--nothing seems force and everything seems real. I also must commend this drama for bringing up controversial issue (from teen pregnancy to sexual orientation) in a fair view and not in a preachy tone.

Another thing I love about this drama is the great actings. Minh Hang in particular was able to show me that she has grown as an actress. She definitely has finer acting skill and more confidence in the role that she played than when she was in Cai Bong Ben Chong. In short, her role as a mischievous and clumsy Phung is lovable and believable. Huynh Dong also gave me a good surprise for being very natural in his role as Quan. I love the on-screen chemistry between him and Minh Hang--as Phung started to fall for Quan so did I. The supporting cast was also well-picked for this drama, everyone managed to hold their own ground and bring to life their character whether through tears or laughters.

Needless to say, this drama has restored my interest in Viet drama. Hopefully, in the future there will be more dramas with substance like this one and not just soulless dramas with only pretty-face cast. In sum, if you're Vietnamese and you haven't watched this drama yet you're missing out on something great!

15Jan/080

Jenny, Juno (2005)

Jenny, Juno

A.K.A.: Jeni Juno
Korean Title: 제니, 주노
Vietnamese Title: An Com Truoc Keng
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Starring: Park Min-Ji, Kim Hye-Sung
Screenwriter: Kim Ho-Joon
Director: Kim Ho-Joon
MPAA: PG

Synopsis
The plot centers around the relationship of a 15-year-old couple, Jenny (Park Min-ji) and Juno (Kim Hye-sung), who meet in school. When Jenny discovers that she is pregnant, she and Juno decide against having an abortion, opting for parenthood instead. They try to conceal the pregnancy from their families for as long as possible, but the truth is revealed eventually, and their parents do not approve.
Source: Wikipedia

Rating: B (Wonderful)
Rewatch Factor: High
Comment: Some people have commented on the similarities between this movie and the new American movie "Juno", and I certainly can understand why because throughout watching "Juno" I can't help but thought of this movie, "Jenny, Juno". However, I will refrain on commenting about the similarities between two movies and will only focus on this movie.
Prior to watching "Jenny, Juno", I have heard some criticis raised concerns about this movie portraying teen pregnancy in a sugary sweet light and not very realistic. Those are very valid concerns, and I do not disagree with them. However, I believe because this movie is sweet and does not neccessarily reflects the reality of teen pregnancy which make it so unique and entertaining to watch. I am not sure about other people, but for me I really have seen enough films about the depressing reality of teen pregnancy that it does not excite me to see another one. This movie is unlike many others movies that I have seen about teen pregnancy, in that, I still felt good after I am done watching the movie. Park Min-Ji and Kim Hye-Sung is absolutely adorable playing as the two innocent teens who have to learn to face the consequences (that they are not ready to face) for the decision they made one faithful day. This movie has a nice underlining message about taking responsibility--when it comes to accepting responsibility, anyone can do it. Overall, if you are willing to suspend reality for about 1 hour and 40-something minutes then you will certainly enjoy this movie.

6Jan/083

The Rebel (2007)

Dong Mau Anh Hung

Vietnamese Title: Dong Mau Anh Hung
Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Martial Arts, Historical
Starring: Johnny Tri Nguyen, Ngo Thanh Van, Dustin Nguyen, Nguyen Chanh Tinh
Screenwriters: Charlie Nguyen, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Dominic Pereira
Director: Charlie Nguyen
MPAA: PG-13

Synopsis
1920s. Vietnam under colonial French ruling. Anti-French rebellions emerge all over the country to disrupt the foreign occupiers. In respond, the colonialist employed units of Vietnamese agents to track and destroy these rebels. The film follows the journey of LE VAN CUONG, a French cultured undercover elite. Although branded with a perfect track record, Cuong's inner conscience is troubled by the sea of Vietnamese blood he had spilled to uphold a French washed ideal. Following an assassination of a high ranking French, Cuong is assigned to seek and kill the notorious leader of the resistance. Cuong encounters VO THANH THUY, a relentless revolutionary fighter and the daughter of the rebel leader. Cuong's superior intends for him to use Thuy as a mean to get to her father but Cuong soon has feelings for her. Thuy's patriotism ignites conflicts between Cuong's consciousness and his cultured faith. Will Cuong discover his inner-self and find love or will he continue his mission? The journey unfolds...
Source: Official Website

Rating: B- (Good)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: A delight film that holds great promise for Vietnamese Cinema oversea. This film is written, produced, and directed by the Nguyen brothers: Charlie Nguyen and Johnny Tri Nguyen.

At first I didn't know what to expect from this movie. Sure, the trailer looks interesting enough, but can it lives up to the preview shown in the trailer? Well, for the most parts I can say that it does. The film tells the story of Vietnam around the 1920s, with the French occupied the land and oppressed the Vietnamese people and a group of Vietnamese resistance trying to return freedom back to their people. Although the plot is nothing new, the film, nevertheless, is entertaining and action-packed. The film appeared expensive and well made. From the sceneries down to the costumes that people worn in the movie, everything gives off an authentic feel. Additionally, the action scenes are well choreographed--no wires or fancy cg, just raw martial arts.

I felt that with this film Johnny Tri Nguyen has finally got "the break" that he has been hoping for after all the time that he spent as a stunt double in Hollywood and for playing minor roles in such films like Tom-Yum-Goong, Cradle 2 the Grave, etc. While his acting skill is decent, he needs to work on his Vietnamese pronunciation. In some of the scenes I can barely figure out what is it that he is trying to say, and if there is no English subtitles I'm sure that I would be lost. Lastly, I think the movie can do without the love/intimate scene between the two main characters. It felt forced and contrived. I think that is my biggest problem with not just this movie, but many of the other films I have seen e.g. The Banquet, Farewell My Concubine, etc. I am all for love scene in movie, but only when it is necessary and essential to understand the plot of the film. I do not like love scene added to a movie simply because the film is trying to follow trend or simply because the director/writer trying to be risque/daring. Overall, it is a great action-packed flick that action fans everywhere will enjoy. Even if you are not an action fan, it is a good film to watch if you want a glimpse into the past of the Vietnamese people and culture.

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.

15Sep/071

Sakuran (2007)

Sakuran

Japanese Title: さくらん
Genre: Period, Drama
Starring: Anna Tsuchiya, Hiroki Narimiya, Yoshino Kimura, Miho Kanno, Masatoshi Nagase, Masanobu Ando
Screenwriter: Yuki Tanada
Director: Mika Ninagawa
MPAA: R

Synopsis:
Based on the manga "Sakuran" by Moyoco Anno.

A young kamuro (maid in a brothel) is sold into the red-light district Yoshiwara, and is put under the care of the current oiran of the Tamakiku-house, Shouhi, who names her Tomeki. The girl is very rebellious and does not cry when punished, is foul-mouthed and bad-mannered, and talks back and even hits the other kamuros. It is because of this that the more experienced people in the household begin to think that she will be one day a great oiran, since to be an oiran one needs not only beauty and talent, but she should also have the tenacity to maintain the position.

After that, we follow Tomeki as she becomes O-Rin, a hikkomi (or prostitute-in training), and later Kiyoha, the most beautiful girl at the Tamakiku-household. Her popularity threatens the position of Tamakiku's oiran Mikumo, which creates great tension and jealousy between the two.

But rivalry is not the main problem to overcome for young Kiyoha, but rather the appearance of young Soujiro and the impossibility of love in the love-quarters.
Source: Wikipedia

Rating: A- (Great)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: Sakuran is a delightful movie, meant for mature audiences only. Its story similar to "Memoirs of a Geisha" but it is less romantic in a sense. The girls in the movie are no geisha, and to put it bluntly, they are high-class prostitutes of the Red Light District. Not to mention, Kiyoha, as rebellious as she is, holds no desire for the position of oiran in the beginning. The way the story presented is clear as you are hooked into the life of Kiyoha and those around her. It's hard to explain the story without spoiling it. It's one that requires you to watch the story from beginning to end without skipping any parts. The high points of the movie are the visuals. The clothing, setting, everything is beautifully done, and you shouldn't expect less. Fans of Masanobu Ando might enjoy seeing him in this movie, as well. The ending was quite a surprise, but it is a happy one. This is one movie you shouldn't pass up.

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

The Myth (2005)

The Myth

Chinese Title: 神话 (Shenhua)
Genre: Drama, Period, Romance
Starring: Jackie Chan, Kim Hee Sun, Tony Leung
Screenwriter: Stanley Tong
Director: Stanley Tong
MPAA: R

Synopsis: Jack (Jackie Chan) often dreams that he is an ancient Qin dynasty General rescuing a princess from danger. At first, he thought that these were simply dreams from his imagination. However, on his expedition to India with his best friend Tony in order to find rare materials for research, he encountered a painting of the princess in his dream inside a tomb. He ultimately realizes that his dream may be real after all, and that his dreams might be fragments of his past life, and begins to find the answer behind those recurring dreams.
Source: Eversky.org

Rating: A (Excellent)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: The Myth is one of those rare epic films that ties past to present together so nicely. Throughout the film, the transition between present and past are done nicely. At first, the viewer may be taken aback at these sudden transitions, but the viewer will be able to follow through the movie with ease. The idea behind the movie is original in the sense that plays on real history and weaves a story from there. The fighting scenes were especially choreographed well, and that is one of the highlights of the movie. Viewers will find themselves appreciating the bit of romance portrayed in the movie, one that can never come to fruition however. The ending in the movie may seem like it's lacking since the beginning and the middle were so great, but if a person thinks about, the ending was suitable and reasonable for such a movie. There were also minor details in the movie that a person should be aware of because they simply add more to beauty of the movie and its epic storyline. I personally feel that this is an excellent movie with a suitable ending. My only warning for people who plans to watch this movie, is that the ending might not be what they expect it to be.