Monday, November 19, 2007

2007 San Francisco Asian Film Festival

The 2007 San Francisco Asian Film Festival ran from November 8 to 18. I saw eleven films at the 4 Star and Castro.

Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea - Japanese with subtitles; filmed on location in Mongolia; (2007)
Eye in the Sky with Tony Leung Ka Fai; Cantonese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
The Goddess with Ruan Lingyu; silent with intertitles; (1934)
Dragon Tiger Gate with Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue; directed by Wilson Yip; Cantonese with subtitles; (2006)
ZebraMan directed by Takashi Miike; Japanese with subtitles; (2004)
Barking Dogs Never Lie with Bae Doo-na; directed by Bong Joon-ho; Korean with subtitles; (2000)
Yakiniku The Movie Japanese with subtitles; (2007)
Nanking - English, Mandarin, and Japanese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site
Confession of Pain with Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Shu Qi; Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles; (2006)
Flashpoint with Donnie Yen, Louis Koo; directed by Wilson Yip; Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles; (2007) - Official Website
Invisible Target with Nicholas Tse, Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue; Cantonese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site

A few quick notes. The film I most wanted to see was The Banquet with Ziyi Zhang. However, the film did not arrive in time for the screening. I am very disappointed. The film is characterized as "Hamlet with a kung fu twist." The proper term is Wǔxiá which literally translates into philosophical kung fu. Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragron are two well known wǔxiá films.

All the Chinese films were set in Hong Kong (HK) except the eponymous Nanking. My guilty pleasure is HK action films and this festival delivered. Flashpoint in particular was a gritty film about a cop that is as violent as the criminals he is trying to arrest. When the Vietnamese gang attacks the cops, Yen drops all pretense about upholding the law. He goes after them with guns and fists. The fight scenes were choreographed by star Donnie Yen. For added realism, Yen incorporates mixed martial arts into the fight scenes so it looks like something out of Ultimate Fighter.

Invisible Target is more like an American action movie with plenty of explosions. Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue were/are teenage pop stars which makes their acting and physicality more impressive. It would be like Justin Timberlake (is he sitll popular) making action movies and doing his stunts. Jaycee Chan is Jackie Chan's son. There is a definite facial resemblance.

Confession of Pain has a few action sequences but is more of a thriller. First, note there are two Tony Leungs that are well known Chinese actors. This films starred Tony Leung Chiu Wai. He is the Tony Leung (aka Short Tony) currently appearing in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution. Frequently co-starring with the beautiful Maggie Cheung, you may also remember him from Hero, 2046, In the Mood for Love, and Chungking Express.

The other Tony Leung is Tony Leung Ka Fai who appeared in Eye in the Sky. That Tony Leung (aka Big Tony) also has a more offbeat filmography including a movie I saw many years ago called The Lover with Jane March and based on a Marguerite Duras autobiographical novel. More recently he was in Johnny To's Election. I get them confused all the time.

Also, if you are wondering what a guy named Takeshi Kaneshiro is doing an HK action film, allow me to elaborate. Many people don't know this but Japan occupied Taiwan from 1895 to 1945. Despite 62 years of being the Republic of China, there is still a Japanese presence on the island. Kaneshiro, born in 1973 to a Taiwanese mother & Japanese father, can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and English. Also, Confession of Pain was made by the team that created Infernal Affairs (note infernal not internal). In the USA, Infernal Affairs was remade by Martin Scorcese with the title The Departed with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson.

Barking Dogs Never Lie was made by the director who helmed The Host which was in US theaters earlier this year. Those two films starred a great Korean actress (Bae Doo-na) whom I became familiar with as the Korean exchange student in the Japanese film Linda Linda Linda.

Enough of the Kevin Bacon in Asia game.

Linda Linda LindaCast of Linda Linda Linda (Bae Doo-na, far right)

Tony Leung Chiu WaiTony Leung Chiu Wai

Tony Leung Ka FaiTony Leung Ka Fai

Saturday, November 17, 2007

El Paso Native Alan Tudyk

I recently read an article about character actors and their ability/freedom to give fascinating performances that lead actors are unable or not allowed to give. Most people have never heard of Alan Tudyk. In the article, he identified as a character actor giving great performances today and as soon I read it his name, I nodded my head in agreement.

Tudyck appeared in the British movie Death at a Funeral which was in theaters this summer. He played the nervous boyfriend who unknowingly took some hallucinogenic drugs. I think his most famous role to date is giving voice to the robot Sonny in I, Robot starring Will Smith. I thought he was British based on his voice but it turns out he was born in El Paso and grew up in Plano near Dallas. I grew up in El Paso so its a small world. I can't think of many "famous" people from El Paso. Sandra Day O'Connor grew up there as did ABC News correspondent Sam Donaldson. The only other actor I can think of is former Miss USA Laura Harring who had roles in Mulholland Falls, The Punisher, and the TV show The Shield.

Tudyk has been busy this summer. He appeared as Doc Potter (sporting eyeglasses and a mustache) in the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Also, he was in the film Knocked Up which I did not see.

He has built an impressive filmography. I, Robot which I saw in the theaters has been on TV a lot the last few years. It's a film that is a full of small pleasures - James Cromwell's narration, Tudyk's voice and the animatronic facial features of Sonny. He had a small role in a little known film called Wonder Boys (based on a Michael Chabon novel by the same name) starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes, and Robert Downey Jr. and others. Set in Pittsburgh, Douglas is a English professor suffering from long-term writers block, Downey is his dubious agent, Maguire his sexually confused student with enormous creative talent and suicidal tendencies, and Holmes plays another student with a crush on teacher.

Tudyk's list of credits goes on and on - the cult hit Firefly and the movie sequel Serenity, Ice Age, its sequels, and A Knight's Tale.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Charlie Chaplin at the Castro

BAM/PFA is having a Charlie Chaplin retrospective in Berkeley and at the Castro in December. There are number of classic films that I want to see. Earlier, I listed City Lights on my film list. That film will be repeated in December. Not quite a silent film; it has a musical score and a muffled voice is heard a la Charlie Brown's teacher. Allegedly, it was Chaplin speaking through a kazoo.

Among the highlights I want to see are:

The Great Dictator (1940); Chaplin plays Adenoid Hynkel (and his Jewish barber) in this satirical criticism of Hitler and the Nazis. I've heard about this movie since I was a kid but have never seen it (not even on TV). The film co-stars Paulette Goddard (Mrs. Charlie Chaplin at the time of the film). Trivia - Paulette Goddard would divorce Chaplin and marry Burgess Meredith who is best known to audiences as Mickey from the Rocky movies or the Penguin from the 1960's Batman television series. Extra trivia - my favorite Burgess Meredith role is a supporting role he had in John Wayne's In Harm's Way. You may recall that WWII movie for Kirk Douglas' supporting role where he rapes a nurse and atones for it by flying a fighter plane into sure death.
The Great Dictator
Modern Times (1936); Chaplin's satirical criticism (he made a lot of
satirical criticisms) about the dehumanizing effects of industrialization. Slipping back into his familiar role as The Little Tramp, this film includes Chaplin's most famous visual gag when he gets pulled through some giant gears and cogs. Once again, this is a movie I've heard a lot about but have never seen. Co-stars Paulette Goddard. Similar to City Lights, this film contains limited dialogue but has a score and sound effects.
Modern Times
The Kid (1921); The Little Tramp teamed with the biggest child star of the time - a seven year old Jackie Coogan. I've never seen Jackie Coogan as a child in any films. Forty years after this film, Coogan would play Uncle Fester in the TV series "The Addams Family."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking Inventory through October 27

Continuing my movie inventory...

2007 DocFest - Official Site
American Scary (2006) - Official Site
Wiener Take All: A Dogumentary (2007) - Official Site
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006) - Official Site
Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) - Official Site
Shakey's Hill (2007) - Official Site
Read SF Chronicle story on Shakey's Hill.
Hell on Wheels (2007) - Official Site
Cowboys and Communists (2007) - Official Site
A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory (2007) - Official Site
Eat at Bill's (2007)
Audience of One (2007)
Manufacturing Dissent (2007) - Official Site

2007 Shock it To Me Film Festival - Official Site
Sugar Hill (1974)

Maria Montez Triple Feature
Cobra Woman (1944)
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944)
Arabian Nights (1943)

Creepshow with Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, E.G. Marshall; directed by George Romero (1982)

That takes me up through October 27. Currently, I'm attending the San Francisco Asian Film Festival (not to be confused with the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival). I'll post those films and some thumbnail sketches of the last 60 films I've seen during the Thanksgiving break.

Taking Inventory through September 28

I've been so busy at work and other personal tasks that I haven't blogged but as you'll see I have had time to go to the movies.

Here are the movies I've seen since July 8.

City Lights with Charlie Chaplin; (1931)

2007 San Francisco Silent Film Festival
All films were screened at the Castro Theater. All films were silent with live musical accompaniment.

Hal Roach Short Film Compilation
The Valley of the Giants (1927)
Maciste - Italian; (1915)
Camille with Rudolph Valentino and Alla Nazimova; (1921)
Beggars of Life with Louise Brooks and Wallace Beery, directed by William Wellman; (1928)
Retour de Flamme - compilation of restored French silent films
Miss Lulu Bett directed by William C. de Mille; (1921)
A Cottage on Dartmoor directed by Anthony Asquith; (1929)
The Godless Girl directed by Cecil B. de Mille; (1929)

The Barbara Stanwyck retrospective sponsored by BAM/PFA to commemorate the centennial of her birth continued in July at the Castro.
Double Indemnity with Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, and Edward G. Robinson; (1944)
Clash by Night with Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, and Marilyn Monroe; directed by Fritz Lang; (1952)

Revenge of the Cheerleaders with David Hasselhoff in supporting role; (1976)

2007 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival - Official Site
His People - Silent film with live accompaniment; (1925)
Body and Soul with John Garfield; (1947)

Witchcraft Through the Ages - 1922 silent film (Häxan) from Denmark re-edited with narration by William S. Burroughs; (1968)

2007 Dead Channels Film Festival - Official Site
Happy Birthday Wanda June with Rod Steiger; based on a Kurt Vonnegut play; (1971)
Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975)
Freesia - Icy Tears - Japanese with subtitles; (2007) - Official Site (Japanese language)
Spider Baby with Lon Chaney Jr. and directed by Jack Hill; (1968)
Pit Stop with Brian Donlevy, Richard Davalos, and Ellen Burstyn (McRae); directed by Jack Hill; (1969)
Short and Really Scary short film compilation
Disquiet (2006) - Official Site
Jupiter Love (2006) - Official Site
The Secret Life of Sarah Sheldon (2006) - Official Site
Hot Baby! (2007) - Official Site

Le Doulos - French with subtitles; directed by Jean-Pierre Melville; (1962)
Massacre at Central High (1976)

Harry Potter Film Festival
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Death at a Funeral (2007) - Official Site
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) - Official Site
Cruising with Al Pacino and directed by William Friedkin; (1980)
Death Proof - second half of Grind House; directed by Quentin Tarantino; (2007)
Vanishing Point (1971)
3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe; (2007)
Seconds with Rock Hudson and directed by John Frankenheimer; (1966)