Breathtaking, simply breathtaking movie: Shadow

From the moment I saw the trailer on the big screen I knew I would pay the exorbitant parking fees to go see it in the downtown Chicago theater (it’s in a very limited release, unfortunately). Shadow, the most recent work from Zhang Yimou, is one of the most visually stimulating movies I’ve seen in recent years.

There is nothing to fault in this movie; story, cast, costume, set direction, cinematography, fight sequences, soundtrack… it has it all.

The plot seems straightforward; a worthy general has taken the drastic step of challenging the general who represents an “allied” (usurping) kingdom that is holding the principal city of his king. This act has potentially serious consequences and sets in motion a number of plots and devices. There’s more to the story that the superficial political moves; the general is more than he seems to be. His story unfolds in a non-linear narrative, contrasting to the more straightforward conflict. He is the “shadow” of another, chosen in boyhood for his resemblance to another, trained to be his double and protect him from potential assassination and other threats. Deng Chao plays both characters and is so convincing that it seems that another actor plays his genuine alter-ego.

The one who must tread carefully between the two (especially now that her real husband is ill and cannot be seen publicly) is the real general’s wife, played by Sun Li. The above image would imply that she is emotionally close to the imposter, but the relationships are not so transparent. You could say that they’re as cloudy as the inky character banners, ink-wash drawings, and swirling layers of silken robes that provide the visual texture to every scene. And let’s not forget the rain… constant rain which plays its own role in the story.

The fight choreography is beautiful as well, especially the sequence in which Sun Li’s character tells her husband that she thinks that she can adapt his moves to find a way to defeat the opposing general’s deadly techniques. The others involve the use of the “umbrella” weapons; when unleashed en masse they made me gasp aloud in the theater!

Those of you who’ve seen Ever Night will recognize General Yang; it’s Hu Jun again as an imposing and difficult to beat fighter. And lovers of Nirvana in Fire will be surprised to see impertinent little Fei Liu now the muscular youth, the son of General Yang. Wu Lei has grown!

Official Synopsis:

With SHADOW, director Zhang Yimou (HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS) once again pushes the boundaries of wuxia action to create a film like no other, masterfully painting a canvas of inky blacks and greys punctuated with bursts of color from the blood of the defeated. In a kingdom ruled by a young and unpredictable king, the military commander has a secret weapon: a “shadow”, a look-alike who can fool both his enemies and the King himself. Now he must use this weapon in an intricate plan that will lead his people to victory in a war that the King does not want.

#dong-chao, #guan-xiaotong, #hu-jun, #leo-wu, #shadow, #sun-li, #wang-jingchun, #wang-qianyuan, #wu-lei, #zhang-yimou, #zheng-kai

While on a movie binge I saw this trailer for “Shadow”

This looks amazing, especially on the big screen, and I can’t wait to see the whole thing. And for those watching Ever Night, you might recognize the general with the smirk, Hu Jun!

More on the movies seen soon 😊

#deng-chao, #hu-jun, #shadow, #sun-li

So I was on a flight recently…

And with an hour to go decided to check out the Japanese movie After the Rain.

I only was able to see about a quarter of it but it looked quite interesting and I regret not starting it earlier..LOL!!

I always have to adjust to the Japanese movies/dramas I find, which is probably why I don’t watch as many as I might. I’ll have to see if I can find it online so I can watch the rest of it.

#after-the-rain, #movie

Went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody”


You know I sat through the whole thing waiting to hear that certain song. You know which one it is.  “I Was Born to Love You”  (TAKUYAAAAAAAAAA!) and…. (spoiler) Continue reading

#bohemium-rhapsody, #pride

Took in Crazy Rich Asians

I know that there’s a lot of press about how great it is that a mainstream movie is headlined by an Asian cast and how it’s doing boffo box office business, but I think that the most important thing not being said is that there are a lot of people who want to go see movies that don’t feature shoot-em-ups and explosions. (Except of the temper tantrum variety)

This movie is not about deep thoughts, or even great acting (it’s serviceable); it’s about spending time with pretty people in pretty locations wearing pretty clothes and leaving with a probably HEA ending. And that works.

I’ve read books 1 and 2 (China Rich Girlfriend is going to be a challenge to make into the sequel as mainland China’s not all that keen on airing the dirty linen lifestyles of the Uber-rich new billionaires and might not want to allow filming there), and if you have too you’ll see a number of differences, mostly having to do with shifting timelines and plot lines being omitted. But I’m not gonna lie — I just sat back and wished I was on a Singapore vacation!


In case you’re missing Wang Kai…

I see that DramaFever is now offering his most recent movie, The Devotion of Suspect X. The odd thing is that I’ve read the book (it’s by a known Japanese mystery writer, Keigo Higashino) and seen the other film adaptations of it (Japanese and Korean) before seeing this one, so it was very familiar to me when I saw it in the theater. Wang Kai’s superior posture is ever present, but its not a bad job of a film.

Back for more of a taste of Japan

I guess that I’d felt that I’d ignored the Japanese side of things lately, so I watched a movie, a documentary, and a travel/food/documentary series this week!

First up was the movie After the Storm, with Abe Hiroshi, which I watched on Amazon Prime. The plot (from the summary on Wikipedia) is as follows:

Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) wastes any money he makes as a private detective on gambling and can barely make ends meet or pay child support for his son. He makes extra money by offering his own services to the detective agency’s clients.

Not a whole lot happens, IMO, it’s a little too low-key for my taste, but at least no one gets shivved with a sushi blade 😉

The documentary was one I watched on Netflix and was a one of those cultural puzzlers (“How are people like that?”) called Tokyo Idols. I enjoy the performances of the youngsters (from my perspective) from groups like BTS and more, but the whole business of “idol” girl performers and the men who worship them is more than a little bit squicky. Here’s the description:

Girl bands and their pop music permeate every moment of Japanese life. Following an aspiring pop singer and her fans, Tokyo Idols explores a cultural phenomenon driven by an obsession with young female sexuality, and the growing disconnect between men and women in hyper-modern societies.

The documentarians explore the social ramifications (lonely men not forming real world emotional connections and families, contributing to the declining birthrate, and the fetishizing of young girls as pure and desirable objects), but could have gone a lot further IMO.

The last viewing was much more enjoyable; this was the charming and too short 6-part series on Amazon Prime called The Tale of Kitto Katto.

Tastemaker Emmy Cho eats her way across Japan on a quest to discover Japan’s unique Kit Kat flavors.

Starting off by sampling a regional flavor of Kit Kat bars, for example, matcha in Kyoto, the host explores the ingredient and its significance in that region. She’s fresh and appreciative and asks just the right questions. Each episode runs from 10 to 13 minutes and I would love to see more. Maybe she can explore Japanese sodas next?

#after-the-storm, #emmy-cho, #hiroshi-abe, #the-tale-of-kitto-katto

Midnight Runners now (not) on Dramafever :(

Edited 10/17/2018

Feast your eyes, ladies! I thought this was very entertaining, and I’m never gonna complain about any time spent with Park Seo-joon 🙂 Oh yeah, and Kang Haneul ain’t bad either.


Various News Items!

New Dramas/Movies Of Interest

My Netflix alerts just let me know that Prison Playbook is going to be available on the 24th. That’s the one about a baseball player who’s convicted of some sort of crime (fraud?) and sent to prison where he meets Jung Kyung-ho and life (bromance?) happens. I keep seeing some good things about it on my social media feeds, and I really like Jung Kyung-ho and have since I first saw him in I’m Sorry I Loved You.


Queen of Mystery 2 is a thing and it’s coming soon! (February) I’m not sure if it will be before or after the Olympics, but I can’t wait. The promo pics for it look just as adorable as the original ones.

I had a chance to go see Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds last week (because I love Ha Jung-woo) and was not disappointed! I particularly enjoyed the mixture of relationship development and mythology building as they created the roles of the guardians. Plus, just about every character actor working in Korea today is in it. AND there is a “part 2” coming later this year which will feature the others who they couldn’t squeeze into the first part! It’s still playing in select theaters, but maybe not much beyond this week.

There is also a new Japanese movie opening this weekend (details and show locations here) starring the yummy Oguri Shun — Gintama. “Based on the best-selling action comedy manga by Hideaki Sorachi, GINTAMA takes place in an alternate Edo-period Japan, where an Alien race has taken control, forcing Samurai to lay down their swords. Once feared as the “White Demon,” former samurai Gintoki Sakata now works as an everyday handyman – until a master swordsman tasks Gintoki and his friends with finding the cursed sword Benizakura to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Packed with the sword- swinging sci-fi action and offbeat humor that have made the manga a classic.”

Music and Other Stuff

I know I’m not the only one who loves Park Hyo-shin here, so I know my fellow fans will want to pick up his new single Sound of Winter. I love his voice… so mellow!

I found out about it because I’ve been spending (far too much) time watching a YouTube channel called “Classical Musicians React to Kpop”. It is the perfect way to validate my/your addiction to Kpop; a group of youngsters at a music academy/college in Canada (Eastman) watch MVs and react to what they see and hear. It’s fun listening to them analyze things like the beat, the shift between major and minor, tonic scales, etc. Oh, and have their minds exploded by the productions! I’m pleased to see that one of my favorite acts is one of theirs: AKMU, or Akdong Musician.

#along-with-the-gods-the-two-worlds, #classical-musicians-react-to-kpop, #gintama, #ha-jung-woo, #jung-kyung-ho, #oguri-shun, #park-hae-soo, #park-hyo-shin, #prison-playbook, #queen-of-mystery-2

Movie day: Swindlers

I spent the afternoon with Hyun Bin and company watching an average-ish caper-type flick. His primary costar is Yoo Ji-tae, who’s aging well too. This makes my second Yoo Ji-tae movie in a row, having watched the bowling pic Split as part of the local Asian Film Festival in Chicago! One reviewer said that he felt like they’d swindled him out of 90 minutes, but it wasn’t that bad — except for this one horrible sequence where the camera 360˚s continuously around YJT for No. Good. Reason. There could be worse ways to spend your time than taking in those dimples.

#hyun-bin, #yoo-ji-tae, #swindlers