The Pang Brother’s
Mandarin with English Subtitles
of Lincoln Center Film Society Hong Kong Film
Lee, Lawrence Chou, Chutcha Rujinanon, Yut Lai
So and Candy Lo.
Reviewed by Wendy
The Thai-Born Pang
Brothers (of Bangkok Dangerous fame)
made a eerily haunting horror film with their
2002 film The Eye - the story of a young
woman named Mun (played by the talented Angelica
Lee) whose eyesight is restored when she receives
a corneal transplant from an anonymous donor.
Mun, who was blinded when she was two, then needs
counseling and training to deal with the over
stimulation of suddenly being able to see. An
example (shown in the film): Mun can tell what
a stapler is by touch, but not by sight. This
counseling is supplied by Dr. Wah, a handsome
young psychotherapist played by Lawrence Chou.
Dr. Wah also supplies the romantic interest.
The problem is
Mun (in Sixth Sense tradition) can see
too much. She almost immediately begins to see
both the living and the dead. She also see apparitions
of black hooded wraiths who arrive just before
someone is supposed to die (did you see Ghost?).
This of course terrifies Mun, but the fun part
is that it terrified me too.
Angelica Lee (Mun) won the Best Actress award
at the Hong Kong Film Festival and it was certainly
deserved. She gives a beautifully nuanced performance
as Mun, playing her as every woman. She is totally
believable and becomes the audience’s guide
into her world, so when she is scared, we are
There is very little
in The Eye that is original. All the
plot points have been seen before - transplanted
body parts that transplant more than their expected
function, dead people who hang around because
they need to solve the conflicts of one world
before embarking for another, etc. etc. Anyone
who has watched a horror film knows the story.
The charm of The Eye is that although
the story is old, the telling is fresh and fun.
The art direction
and cinematography are well done and the directors
do a wonderful job of pacing the film. The only
problem that this reviewer saw was that they threw
in every horror film plot known to man. There
were so many points when it seemed that the movie
was over and then off we went to view another
horror film. But it really does not matter. The
Pang Brothers pulled it off by their careful direction,
their choice of a haunting score and their brilliant
decision to cast Angelica Lee.
was produced by Applause Pictures, written by
written by Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui, Oxide Pang Chun
and Danny Pang. It is available on DVD though
Chinese with English Subtitles
of Lincoln Center Film Society Hong Kong Film
Starring: Hu Jun, Liu Ye & Su Jin
Reviewed by Jessica
I know. It’s
cliche to say that loves strikes when you least
expect it. But in Lan Yu, a recent feature
in Lincoln Center’s Hong Kong Film series,
love not only strikes when it’s least expected,
but between unconventional lovers during unpredictable
times. Lan Yu is the story of a highly
successful and jaded Beijing businessman, Handong
(Jun Hu), who finds love in the arms of the naive
and fresh-faced country boy, Lan Yu (Ye Liu).
The two first meet when Lan Yu, a starving architecture
student, agrees to spend the night with Handong
for a little cash. But when Lan Yu gives himself
over wholeheartedly, Handong finds himself drawn
into more than a one-night stand.
Lan Yu is open
and expressive about his feelings and early on
shows his love for Handong. But Handong resists
and insists instead on maintaining emotional distance
and treating Lan Yu like a kept lover, not a partner.
When Handong goes too far and brings home another
boy, Lan Yu leaves heartbroken. Handong believes
he’s gotten Lan Yu out of his system. But
the following year, when he hears about the clashes
in Tiananmen Square, Handong rushes to find Lan
Yu and ensure his safety. They reunite and rekindle
their romance, but Handong is still unable to
abandon himself to happiness. Instead, he marries
a woman in an effort to do what is right and proper.
Predictably, his marriage falls apart and he finds
himself back with Lan Yu.
Over the years,
the two come together and fall apart. Handong
always holds back, resists his love for Lan Yu,
perhaps unable to believe that love like Lan Yu’s
– forgiving, generous, raw – can really
exist. Then Handong loses everything: his business
and finances come under investigation and he is
jailed. Lan Yu pays for his release with money
saved over the course of their long relationship,
and that’s when Handong realizes what he
has in Lan Yu. So the road is clear, then, for
them to live happily ever after. But fate has
a strange way of interfering just when everything
seems in place.
is a bittersweet, compact film exploring taboo
love in the midst of social and political upheaval.
Hu and Liu offer fine performances and create
compelling characters. Stanley Kwan’s direction
is dark, smoky and claustrophobic, underscoring
the secretive nature of Handong and Yu’s
relationship. Lan Yu is an atmospheric
and moving film that stays with you as few films
can. For more information log onto: http://www.au-cinema.com/Lan-Yu.htm
was directed by Stanley Kwan and written by Jimmy
Ngai. It is currently available on DVD.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Starring: Bud Cort,
Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Seu George, Jeff Goldblum,
Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Owen Wilaon
Put on your Zissou Adidas
and your AM/FM Scuba gear, its time to go deep-sea
diving into the whacked-out psyche of Wes Anderson.
In his new film, The Life Aquatic with Steve
Zissou, our underwater guide is the titular
Steve Zissou, played by Bill Murray. I would say
the "brilliant" Bill Murray, but in recent
films, he has done so much to establish a reputation
for nuanced, deeply funny/sad (Sanny? Funad? Let's
just say: "Murr-iffic") performances,
that his name has become practically synonymous
with "brilliant." Surrounded by a cast
of characters that redefines "motley,"
Zissou/Murray leads us intrepidly into a distinctly
Andersonian adventure populated with colorful sea-creatures,
Filipino pirates on the high seas, unpaid interns,
and a "part-gay" Jeff Goldblum. To say
nothing of a hilarious Willem Dafoe as an hypersensitive
German shipmate, Seu George singing early David
Bowie in Portuguese to the action of the film, and
Bud Cort as an insurance bondsman and unlikely ally
to Team Zissou.
Wes Anderson's film opens with
the opening of
a film. Steve Zissou, a media-obsessed, self-aggrandizing,
and rather past-his-prime Jacques Cousteau-type is
screening the latest episode of his ongoing series
of adventure "documentaries." In it we meet
the crew of the good ship Belafonte, exploring the
mysteries of the ocean. Only this time, Zissou and
his crew have the misfortune of crossing the path
of the deadly Jaguar-Shark, which takes the life of
his right-hand man, Esteban de Plantier. The loss
sets in motion Zissou's mission to track down the
Jaguar-Shark and kill it. After the screening, which
is greeted by silent incomprehension, one viewer asks
what possible scientific purpose killing such a rare
creature could serve. Zissou's succinct reply: "Revenge."
But Zissou does not embark on his quest alone. He
is joined by Jane Winslett-Richardson(a kewpie-voiced
Cate Blanchett), a pregnant reporter who may or may
not be writing up a hatchet job on Steve. He also
meets Ned Plimpton (long-time Anderson collaborator,
Owen Wilson), a man who may or may not be Zissou's
unknown son. What ensues is a series of encounters,
exchanges, and detours, which in their randomness
and absurdity seem meant to defy verbal description.
Anderson does his best to create a purely cinematic
experience, that is, one that must be lived through
to access and comprehend.
But Anderson has been aiming at this all along his
quirked-out career, and The Life Aquatic
(for short) is a crystallization of that attitude.
Although Anderson's version of crystallized is rather
sprawling and unfocused! After three uniquely crafted
films, Anderson established a firm cult status among
critics and fans, all the while gently expanding the
breadth of his appeal to a larger audience. The question
hung heavily in the air then: Was The Life Aquatic
going to be a sell-out? Would the larger budget, the
all-star cast, and the special effects corrupt Anderson's
unique voice? Happily, the answer is no, and if anything,
Anderson has managed to sidestep the pitfalls of Hollywood
filmmaking as well as any preconceptions of a "Wes
Anderson" formula. It was telling to hear one
audience-member laughing emphatically at innocuous
moments early on in the film. Like some sort of Pavlovian-Hipster
response, she seemed to feel compelled to audibly
demonstrate her appreciation of the Anderson look
and tone. As the film progressed however, viewers
seemed to release themselves to the odd charms of
the film, slowly recognizing that Anderson was up
to something subtly different.
The Life Aquatic is Wes Anderson's Day For
Night,Truffaut's famous film about the behind-the-scenes
of the Seventh Art. For all the marine biology, The
Life Aquatic is really about filmmaking. And more
specifically, it is about Wes Anderson making a Wes
Anderson film. When Zissou's crew, most of whom occupy
roles like "boom operator" and "cameraman"
or "editor", steal cutting edge equipment
from their rival oceanographer's hi-tech underwater
research station, we can imagine Wes Anderson ransacking
the toys and technology of Hollywood to pursue his
own single-minded operation. All of Anderson's characters
have been dreamers and schemers, and now Anderson
is the dreamer and schemer to beat them all, because
he's been behind every single one of them all along.
In a confrontation between father and (possible) son,
Anderson gives us a self-deprecating wink when an
exasperated Ned says to Steve: "You never cared
about me! I'm just another character in your film!"
It's a possible response to critics who complain that
Anderson loses his characters among the obsessively
art-directed frames of his films.
The craziest and loosest
of all his films, The Life Aquatic is the
most autobiographical. Where his previous films
were more structured, The Life Aquatic buzzes
with unbridled imagination. It is the closest we
have seen so far to Mr. Anderson's imagination running
amok on the screen - and for many this can be viewed
as a good thing. Fans of the eccentric Anderson
will be reassured that the same quasi-pathological
passion for wide frames jam-packed with detail,
a pitch-perfect soundtrack, and surprising moments
of heartbreaking humanity are all there. The
Life Aquatic will surely test the patience of
some, but those who give themselves up to the ride
will be charmed by Anderson's generous and inventive
Milk and Honey
Opens March 18th
Starring: Clint Jordon (Rick Johnson);
Kirsten Russell (Joyce Johnson); Dudley Findlay,
Jr. (Moses Jackson), Anthony Howard (Tony); Greg
Amici (Dudley); Eleanor Hutchins- Katie.
Reviewed by Ally Manning
Milk and Honey, Joe Maggio's
second film, takes us gallivanting through the hazy
wet cobblestone streets and subways of New York
City (plus a bit of Jersey) over the course of one
elongated night. The soundtrack features Yo La Tengo
and Fischerspooner, plus an original score by director
Hal Hartley. Milk was shot entirely on
digital and even though the movie is a bit “shaky”,
this digital medium helps to create a unique intimacy
between the characters and the audience. Milk
was an official Selection at Sundance, Tribeca,
Woodstock, and winner of the Special Jury Prize
at the Atlanta Film Festival
Maggio provides us with a cacophony
of issues to absorb, as we witness infidelity, rejection,
acceptance, class difference, and self-loathing.
We ride on the shoulders of his incredibly human
and flawed characters, as they confront their demons
in a blur of interactions.
We observe the deterioration of
Rick, (Clint Jordon) after his wife refuses his
proposal of re-marriage at his very own Welcome-Back-to-the-World-After-Your-Meltdown-Party.
He feels humiliated, a fight ensues and the party
abruptly ends. Rick then storms off into the night.
At first, Joyce (Kirstin Russell)frantically
attempts to locate her husband. She then visits
a girlfriend and accompanies her to a party. She
steadily begins to forget about Rick as she gulps
down liquor and meets a young naked performance
artist who reminds her of an old lover. They form
a creepy mother/son/lover bond and she gradually
becomes more and more delusional, believing he is
her recently deceased “love that got away.
We follow the separate paths of
the husband and wife as they battle with their own
psychological monsters, engaging in chance meetings
and testing the strength and durability of their
love. The rapid destruction and reprieve of a marriage,
an amateur hit man, and an insecure performance
artist in need of acceptance, all help circulate
this convoluted and sticky plot.
In the high-energy express train
to destruction depicted in Milk, the characters
are shaken and stirred with fear, jealousy, violence,
vulnerability and insanity. And between all these
complex characters emerges an altered destiny, created
and shared by strangers - the small connections
that can alter lives forever. And through this,
we can glimpse our own human flaws and see a little
better that light-in-the-dark.
For more information click
Quad Cinemas| 34 W.13th
In Theaters Now
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington,
Reviewed by Stephanie Alberico
Taylor Hackford wrote and directed
the new biopic of Ray Charles with "Georgia
on his mind." The movie was produced before
the June death of the singer/songwriter legend.
This picturesque film depicts Charles's life and
his rise to fame throughout the 1950's and 60's.
Ray's story unfolds to reveal
a life of drug addiction, womanizing, and life struggles.
There are numerous flashbacks to his childhood life
in rural Georgia, where he was born and raised.
As the story begins we see Ray's delicate childhood
memories through his eyes: He is haunted by the
tragic drowning of his younger brother, his mother's
struggle with work and oppression, and the loss
of his sight. We then follow Ray on a journey filled
only with darkness. Left with just the visions of
his mother sweating in the intense heat, soft white
linens blowing in the wind and colorful glass-blown
ornaments hanging in the trees, Ray dedicates his
life to his one passion--music. He begins playing
piano in nightclubs.
Ray is portrayed by Jamie Foxx,
who bears an uncanny resemblance to the singer.
Foxx's performance is definitely Oscar-worthy; he
is sure to leave audiences riveted by his amazing
ability to impersonate Ray. For Ray Charles is famous
not only for his brilliant music, but also for the
constant swaying of his upturned head and the jolting
of his body while he created his breathtaking songs
and music; Foxx hits this characterization dead
on. Two equally brilliant actresses join him, Kerry
Washington as Ray's wife, and Regina King as one
of his many mistresses.
We follow Ray through nightclubs
and gigs, until he is offered a record deal at Atlantic
Records. His first recording, "The Mess Around,"
is created instantaneously within the confines of
the studio, and becomes a chart-topping hit. Suddenly
Ray's fame erupts and he is plastered all over magazines,
radios, and newspapers.
Although Ray gets married and
has children, his life deteriorates out on the road.
As we glimpse a behind-the-scenes look at Ray's
travels, he struggles with anxiety, adultery and
finally discovers heroin. Even as Ray becomes increasingly
famous, his heroin addiction intensifies and his
marital life is destroyed.
Ray's musical genius grows but
his problems worsen. He becomes paranoid that he
is being cheated by his friends and managers: Determined
to receive everything due him, he insists he be
paid his entire salry in one-dollar bills. At a
climatic point in the plot, his favorite mistress
admits she is pregnant and Ray responds by inventing
the famous song, "Hit the Road Jack."
Ray sinks deeper into addiction,
becoming prone to panic attacks and continuously
haunted by eerie hallucinations of flooding water.
We empathize with Ray as he seems to become lost
in his own darkness. But Ray's stubborn attitude
and relentlessness keep him standing alone, no matter
the amount of people or love that surrounds him.
As much as we might love to hate him, Ray wins us
over as he did the women who loved him so dearly.
As with so many musical legends
before him, Ray comes to the realization that life
on the road is killing him. When he is caught with
drugs at U.S. customs, he is forced to face his
addition. He also learns that his mistress has died
of a drug overdose. He goes to rehab and cleans
up his act.
The last half-hour of the film
ties up the loose ends and somewhat glorifies the
singer's difficult life. Hackford picks up a more
documentary feel in the end of the film. We are
left watching a clip of a moving live performance
of Ray in his old age. We also see Ray receiving
recognition and awards for refusing to play music
in Jim Crow states during segregation. Finally,
we see clips of the real-life legend and are forced
to remember a man who will never be forgotten.
I was blown away by the heart
and soul of this emotional film. With his knack
for jazz, rhythm and blues, Ray is definitely a
musical icon whose life not only taught us lessons
about life and love, but also is an inspiration
to us all. Just listen to his throaty rendition
of "Georgia on my Mind," or watch a clip
of one of his live performances, and it is easy
to experience this man's heavenly contribution to
music. It may just bring tears to your eyes.
Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen
and Sandra Oh
Reviewed by Evan Sung
The 42nd New York Film
Festival closed October 17th with a screening
of Alexander Payne's wine-soaked Sideways. Payne,
who has made his name with comic but cutting satires
of abortion (Citizen Ruth), politics
(Election), and the obsolescence of the
aging (About Schmidt), returns with his
most successful film so far.
Paul Giamatti plays Miles Raymond, an oenophile,
Middle school English teacher and unpublished
novelist, whose two years of divorce have slowly
turned him from plain neurotic to full-blown neurotic
sad-sack. His only consolation now are his unopened
bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc and his regular trips
through wine country. Miles' best friend Jack
(Thomas Haden Church) is getting married in one
week. As a gift to Jack and while awaiting word
from his agent on his latest manuscript, Miles
plans a week-long tour of California wine country,
for sun, golf, and wine. Where Miles sees an opportunity
for some good old-fashioned male bonding, Jack
sees one week of getting laid as much as possible
before the slow-death of marriage.
On their way, they meet up with Maya (Virginia
Madsen), a regular waitress at the Hitching Post,
Miles' favorite local restaurant, and her friend
Stephanie (Sandra Oh), to whom Jack is instantly
attracted. As the week progresses, a delicate
dance unfolds between Miles and Maya, both wine
lovers, while Stephanie and Jack share days and
nights of simple carnal pleasure. But things start
to unravel for both couples when Miles lets slip
mention of Jack's nuptials.
Wine country serves as the backdrop of this film,
and wine itself suffuses every aspect of the film
itself. In one painful scene, Miles gets himself
drunk at dinner after learning that his ex-wife
has remarried. As he staggers to the back of the
restaurant to "drink and dial" as Jack
puts it, the camera shifts in and out of focus,
perhaps the most accurate cinematic representation
of the feeling of inebriation I have seen. Wine
is a powerful metaphor for these characters, all
of them maturing, aging, on the verge of really
becoming themselves, complicated, sometimes bitter.
In one of the more moving monologues in the film,
Miles explains to Maya his near-obsessive love
for Pinot Noir. When Miles talks to Maya about
the notoriously fickle and thin-skinned grape,
we understand of course that he could easily be
talking about himself as well. And Giamatti plays
the scene with a disarming vulnerability that
hints at the depths of Miles' terror to be with
this woman he admires as well as his quiet wish
that Maya tend to him with care and attention.
Naturally Jack is the robust Cabernet in this
equation, the jovial overgrown frat boy who goes
with the flow and thrives in any situation. But
Payne is not interested in simple dichotomies.
All the characters have tangled pasts, and are
doing what they can to survive, even if it means
occasional self-sabotage. They are human, and
Payne pulls no punches in showing us just how
human they can be.
Thomas Haden Church is a rollicking surprise as
Jack in Sideways, considering his sitcom-heavy
resume. He is boorish and likable and gives just
enough signs of humanity so that we understand
why this Odd Couple would have remained friends
for so long. But, special attention must be paid
to the nuanced portrayal of Miles by Paul Giamatti.
Giamatti, widely acclaimed in American Splendor,
does even better work here because he is not reined
in by the rather one-note glumness of Harvey Pekar.
Giamatti has room to move here, and gets to display
all his talents, showing us why he is one of American
cinema's most valuable character actors. When
his heart is breaking we see a torrent of emotions
ripple almost imperceptibly across his round fleshy
face. His comic talents are on show as well, from
wine-spurred flip-outs to a bizarre, stiff-armed
"girly" run, that Giamatti confesses
to be his own, and not some actor's invention.
Payne has found in Giamatti the ideal embodiment
of all the funny yet sometimes cruel truths that
all of his films have spoken about America, our
fears and foibles and doubts.
Sideways is a darkly sparkling gem of
a film. Add to the brilliant Paul Giamatti, a
uniformly excellent supporting cast, the beautifully
photographed landscapes of Northern California
wine country, and a jazzy score by Rolfe Kent
that keeps the action buoyant and floating along,
and you get a film of superior vintage: complex,
Phillip F. Messina’s
With Friends Like These
David Straithairn, Jon Tenny, Robert Costanzo,
Amy Madigan, Laura San Giacomo, Elle MacPherson,
Lauren Tom, Beverly D'Angelo, Ashley Peldon, Allison
Bertolino, Bill Murray, Frederick Kesten &
Reviewed by Armistead
You know exactly who I’m talking about.
The “organized” guys who are so smooth
it should be a “crime.” Some are baritones,
but some are Sopranos.
They’re brutal and they will slit your throat
if it suits their needs. Not to mention stab you
in the back with the slightest provocation, and
if you think they’re brutal with the public,
you should see how their treat their own kind.
Actors. What a menace.
With Friends Like These is a hysterical
look inside the life of a bunch of, what I call
“where do I know him from” guy’s
trying to make it big, but who so far are only
“making” the rent by playing generic
mob guys, generic cab drivers and generic Italian
waiters in every movie Hollywood can crank out.
When Johnny DeMartino (played by Robert Costanzo)
gets a “secret” audition for the one
and only Martin Scorcese for the part of Al Capone,
discretion is his one and only goal. Oh yeah,
and nailing the audition. While doing Capone research,
one of Johnny’s “where do I know him
from” friends finds out about the audition
and from then on, well, the back stabbing goes
into full gallop as the group of friends all scammer
around town getting their own Capone auditions,
all the while trying to sabotage their “friends”
along the way.
The cast includes Bill Murray, Amy Madigan, Martin
Scorcese, Laura San Giacomo and Elle Macpherson
to name a few, but in my opinion Beverly D’Angelo
steals the movie playing a “I am so important,
don’t you know who I am, I don’t have
time for you because of my demanding schedule,”
With Friends Like These is a wet-your-pants-laughing-so-hard
movie that everyone… actors, writers…
the general public should go to see if they are
looking to have a good time at the movies.
Friends Like These opened on February
25th at City Cinema’s Village East Ciname,
Village East, 181 2nd Ave, New York, NY
10003. Call 212-529-6799 for tkts and show times.
is currently under construction.