Title: First Time
Starring: Angelababy (Yang Ying), Mark Chao (Zhao Youting)
Genre: Realistic, Contemporary
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 1.5
When I first reviewed this movie a year and a half ago, it was in the immediate aftermath of reading Everything, Everything. And given the issues I have with that book, I’m really hard pressed to think of why I gave 《第一次》such a high rating and a gushy review. Surely––surely––I was aware of what shit representation it was for people with terminal illnesses, right? Honestly, I think I might have just been viewing the film through the eyes of a girl who a) really likes Angelababy b) really likes Mark Chao and c) really likes the film.
And to be fair to 19 year old me, there were aspects of the film that are still genuinely enjoyable. The set design and costuming are lovely––I visited Xiamen last summer with my friend and it really was a beautiful city. I enjoyed its subversion of audience expectation––in many ways, Song Shiqiao is both the Tragic Sick Girl(TM) and the Maniac Pixie Dream Girl(TM), but in this narrative, where Shiqiao’s overprotective mother and her boyfriend Gong Ting try to craft and sell her a narrative, she is the one with the agency, making her own choices. She is the one with the last word, the final say.
The part I can no longer sign off on is that ending––in a media landscape that isn’t oversaturated with stories about chronically ill people and disabled people dying specifically because they are not abled, Song Shiqiao is just a girl who wants the physical freedom of dancing, who wants agency over her body badly enough she is willing to do anything to have a single moment in the spotlight. As it is, though, it’s just one more story about a chronically ill girl who dies, because apparently dying while trying to be abled is better than staying alive as a someone who is chronically ill? Okay.
Title: The Pirates
Starring: Son Ye-jin, Kim Nam-gil
Genre: Historical, Comedy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 3.5
Give me a historical slapstick swashbuckler about pirates and bandits fighting in a time of dynastic transition against the corrupt court and add to that a whale and imperialism and you have a recipe to make me the happiest girl on the world.
Yeo-wol is a pirate who’s successfully mutinied against a faithless captain, and she’s just been offered a contract by disgraced army captain Park Mo (AKA Ahab): bring back the imperial seal bestowed upon the newly-established Joseon by Ming, which was swallowed by a whale (hi, Moby Dick), and be rewarded with riches beyond imagination. Unfortunately for Yeo-wol, however, former lieutenant-turned-bandit Jang Sa-jung, who had opposed the rebellion that put Yi Seong-gye in power, has also heard about the prize, and he is willing to go to sea to save his failing bandit outpost. Sa-jung and Yeo-wol clash multiple times, but when both their demons come knocking, they’re forced to work together to build a future they want to live in.
Continue reading “The Pirates (2014)”
Title: Musa (The Warrior)
Starring: Jung Woo-sung, Joo Jin-mo
Genre: Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Drama
Rating: ★★★★★ | 5.0
warnings: violence, gore
I’m probably not going to do a good job reviewing it properly for this blog because I have too many thoughts to even begin to summarise, but if you guys can handle gore/bloody battle scenes, I highly recommend y’all watch Musa (The Warrior), which stars Jung Woo-sung and Joo Jin-mo. It’s an old favourite of mine and it honestly does everything right.
The overall plot is about a small diplomatic mission from Goryeo (Korea) that gets sent to China right around the turn of the Ming Dynasty, when Zhu Yuanzhang emerged victorious from the war with Toghon Temur, the last Mongol Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in China. Because Goryeo had previously plead allegiance to the Yuan Dynasty, the diplomatic mission is jailed and then sent into exile in the Gobi Desert.
Continue reading “무사 |《武士》| The Warrior”
Starring: 何佳颖, 米勒
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.0 out of 5.0
warnings for casual homophobia, sexual harassment, public outing
So it’s not the best English title in the world, but then, English is also not the only language in the world, and I’m quite willing to forgive an indie web film about queer girls falling in love just about anything but killing their protagonists.
This film, shot after and in partial response to the popular BL webseries Heroin 《上瘾》, became quite popular among young Chinese people. It follows the story of Yu Xiaorou (on the left), who finds herself developing feelings for Mi’le (right), her college roommate, and is forced to process those feelings. Meanwhile, she juggles dealing with casual homophobia from her classmates and an obnoxious boy who just won’t take no for an answer.
Continue reading “Girls Love (2016)”
Title: Front Cover
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic, Dramedy
Starring: Jake Choi, James Chen
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 3.0/5.0
I might actually need to watch this film a second time to process it/my feelings/everything.
Ryan Fu (Jake Choi) is a self identified “potato queen” and an up-and-coming stylist in the New York fashion scene. His life consists mainly of work and parties, and all he wants is to establish himself––to have something to be proud of by the time he turns thirty. So when he gets taken off a cover job and put on styling Chinese actor Qi Xiaoning (James Chen), he’s not happy. Especially not when he finds out that Ning has explicitly requested an ethnic Chinese stylist on the assumption that they will better understand each other, because Ryan has never been invested in identifying as Chinese, has actively divorced himself from Chinese culture, and is flattered when people mistake him for something other than Chinese. But Ning brings another problem––Ryan is out and proud, but Ning is so deep in the closet he’s practically buried. But as they spend more time together, they may find that they have more in common than they thought. And they may find that they have the courage to embrace their identities––don’t they?
Continue reading “Front Cover (2015)”
Title: 大鱼 海棠
Director: Liang Xuan, Zhang Chun
Rating: ★★★★☆ || 3.5 stars
[plenty of visuals because this film is so stunning]
Continue reading “Big Fish & Begonia 《大鱼·海棠》”
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Contemporary, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆ || 3.5
CW: body horror, violence, blood
Every Sino of a certain age and background has fond memories of growing up with at least one Stephen Chow film. For me, it was Shaolin Soccer because I was (and remain) obsessed with Zhao Wei. For others, it’s Kung-Fu Hustle. Or God of Cookery. Whatever that film was, I feel like we can all agree that as a director, actor, and comedian, he is highly underrated outside of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, even when screencaps and gifs of his films are taken out of context for comedic effect, erasing his presence and his work from the laughter he produces.
Continue reading “Mermaid (2016)”