New Year Deck Clearing – More Catch Up (Kitaro and the Millenium Curse, Reign of Assassins, Giants and Toys, Twins Mission, 2DLK, The Servant)

I’ll start with a little administration.  2011 is upon us, and the countdown to my last 5 films before I hit the magic 100 is really close.  Will I stop at film 100?  The reality is, probably not – I know what film 100 will be, and I am pretty sure I have more than 4 films to get into positions 96-99.  I also have a special article planned, which I hope you will see this week.  Plus, I will be announcing the Things Fall Apart WORST film of the year. 

But, I had a look at my pile of notes, and realised I had a huge pile of uncommented on films, and thought it might be best to get these out of the way first.  As always, I reserve the right to go back and discuss these in more detail later.  Although to be brutal, I don’t think it is going to be likely. 

Twins Mission

This is Twins Effect 3, and whilst it is a little better than the previous entry, it is an utter failure.  The great and the good of the Hong Kong film industry embarrass themselves in some kind of nonsensical plot about a mystical object and a sect of fighters, all of whom seem to be Twins.  Lots of glass gets broken, nothing makes any sense, and it ends in an awful mess.  Even Charlene and Gillian can’t save this one (and they go missing for huge chunks of the film).  Maybe Woo Jing and his love interest give acceptable performances, but you do wonder if they are acting in a completely different film.  Avoid.  Please.

Kitaro and the Millennium Curse

This is a Manga adaptation, and a sequel to boot.  But with a judicious use of Wikipedia, this one proved to be a fun ride.  It shows more invention that 10 Western films.  However, I am a little confused about the target audience – it seems to feel like a children’s film, but then some of the content is a little ‘adult’.

But it is one of the finest adaptations of something so imaginative that I have seen.  It is a sequel, plus there have been numerous adaptations over the years, so I suspect you would get far more enjoyment if you were invested more heavily in the source material

But still the film had a certain something, that for those willing to put in the legwork, makes it a joy, and therefore Recommended.

Reign of Assassins

I was very excited about this one.  This was ballyhooed as a return to Wuxia, and it was co-helmed by the ever popular John Woo (although honestly, I couldn’t see quite what he bought to the party).  It has a pan-asian cast to die for (Michelle Yeoh, Jung Woo-sung, Kelly Lin, Shawn Yue), and yet something about it fails to fully engage.  The storyline is a little muddy to start with, and it takes nearly half the film for it to sit comfortably with itself.  It also is a little too over-reliant on a certain clever trick with Michelle Yeoh’s sword, which is initially cool, but then one wants something else imaginative to come out.  I think it struggles to flesh out a lot of the secondary characters, and whilst it manages to play well with the Wuxia tropes I have learnt to spot over the last 12 months, it doesn’t really add anything new.  It is far from a failure, but I think my excitement for it meant that it was possibly always going to fail.  Recommended of course, but approach with caution.

Giants and Toys

A little classic from 1958 Japan.  A young girl is used by a sweet company to advertise their products, but she becomes a huge star, outgrowing those who wanted to manipulate her.  What I found astonishing is that it is still as relevant in todays celebrity culture as it was back then.  Whilst the ending was a little typical of the time, the journey there was breathless fun.  It moves at a stupidly fast pace, and the gap-toothed  Hitomi Nozoe  is a complete and utter delight.  Everything modern Japanese cinema is lacking can be found in this 95 minute treatise to the perils of Marketing.


A clever little art film – based on a bet to two directors that they could not make a film of around 70 minutes, with just two actors, one location and based around the phrase “Duel”.  The other film that came out of the project is commonly deemed to be so-so, but this is actually a classic.  Two aspiring actresses are forced to live with each other whilst auditioning for the same role.  One is from the country, one from the city.  One is uptight and anal, the other more relaxed.  One is a virgin, the other has a more ‘carefree’ attitude to sex.  And guess what?  They do not get on.  Initial dislikes and sharp words eventually evolve into a night of Chainsaws, electric shocks in the bath, and a suitably gruesome ending (even leaving a nice little ironic punch line).  Utterly gripping, it even finds time to drop a little character development in.  Maybe a little hard-core for the casual viewer, I still found this highly entertaining and Recommended.

The Servant (a.k.a The Bang-ja Chronicles)

Originally, when I watched the first half of this one, I thought it was going to get it’s own post.   A sideways retelling of a popular Korean story, it started out funny and smart.  However, somewhere along the line it ended up rather boring, and despite a lot of flesh on display, actually rather un-erotic.  It does have a few truly hilarious moments, and looks as lavish as a period Korean drama should.  It does redeem itself with a brilliantly bittersweet ending, but for a film 

that promised so much more, it really remains one for the Korean cinema  completest, rather than require viewing.


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