Monday, May 31, 2010

10 Asian Films You Should See

While over at The Movie Blog, I checked out one of their favorite posts, 12 Asian Films To Get You Started. The author, John, named a dozen Asian films that he, as a Hollywood film lover still loves. Like John, I'm hardly an expert in Asian cinema but do have a number of Asian films that I love. Here are 10 of my faves, in no particular order. Well, alphabetically but...nevermind...let's move on.

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin AKA Master Killer - Simply put, this is among the finest kung-fu movies ever made. Strangely enough, it parallels Batman Begins in many ways. It's about a boy who's parents were killed at a very young age. He makes his way to the Shaolin Temple where he is put through rigorous and creative training sessions and well, I'll stop there. Suffice it to say that this is the rare martial arts movie where the story is as strong, if not stronger than the fighting.

City on Fire - This one stars an actor many of you are familiar with, Chow Yun-Fat. Here, he plays an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of thieves that plan to rob a jewelry store. The premise is a familiar one, but it plays out so much better than most. In fact, large portions of this movie were taken and transformed into Quentin Tarantino's classic Reservoir Dogs.

Five Deadly Venom - Another classic of the martial arts genre. Five fighters trained by one master have ventured out into the world and that master fears some of them have been up to no good. So he trains a sixth fighter to go out and corral them, more or less. One problem: since they all wore masks the entire time he trained them, he has no idea who they are.

Hard Boiled - With the help of this movie, director John Woo and actor Chow Yun-Fat became international superstars. This is an all-out, nonstop, anything goes action flick. Some of the sequences are among the best action scenes ever filmed. This is just one of those movies that action junkies have to see before they die or their lives are incomplete. Seriously.

Hero - Among a number of martial-arts epics, this is Jet Li's finest. He plays an unnamed man who has defeated three assassins that were to kill King of Qin. These two men tell one another how they think the events played out. The story works well enough as do the numerous fight scenes, but this is all about the cinematography. Simply, it's one of the most beautiful movies you'll ever lay eyes on.

Ichi the Killer - This is a gangster movie unlike any you've ever seen before. A Yakuza boss disappears with a ton of money and his top henchman (& crew) goes looking for him. The henchman is a sadist, and his crew keeps running into Ichi, much to their detriment. It's ultra-violent, vile and flat out insane. And that's why I like it. Think of what an anime movie would be like in live action and you'd be on the right track.

Infernal Affairs - A cop has infiltrated the mob, meanwhile the mob have a cop on the force. Neither knows the other's identity and a brilliant game of cat-and-mouse ensues. If that sounds familiar it's because this classic was remade into Martin Scorcese's Best Picture winner The Departed. If you've somehow not seen Scorcese's version, do yourself a favor and watch the original first. Well, even if you have seen it, check this one out.

Oldboy - A man is imprisoned in a windowless hotel room for 15 years and suddenly released. He has no idea who did this to him and why but he definitely wants to find out and exact a little revenge. When it's all said and done, we're not really sure who got revenge on who and the twist that ends the movie is just absolutely mind-blowing. It's part of the director's (Park Chan-Wook) " (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance the others) and one of my favorite movies of all time.

Return of the Dragon AKA Way of the Dragon - Okay, my favorite Bruce Lee flick of all time is Enter the Dragon but much to everyone's surprise, that's not an Asian film. This one is. If you claim to love martial arts movies but haven't seen this you are a fraud. I command you to get your hands on a copy immediately. If you're not sure why you should, consider this: Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris. I thought so.

Seven Samurai - This is considered by many to be the one of the greatest movies ever made. For any lovers of westerns, its a must-see as it was remade into the classic The Magnificent Seven. The scope of this movie is breathtaking as is the direction and character development. It's an exercise in patient storytelling. Admittedly, you will need some patience yourself since the run time stretches to near 3 and a half hours. However, over that time, there is not a wasted moment.

And once you've run through all those, check these out as well:

The Chinese Connection
Lady Vengeance
The Host
Kung Fu Hustle
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
3 Extremes

What are some of your favorite Asian films?

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