Fri, Jan 08, 2010 - Page 16 News List


Compiled By Martin Williams  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mulan (花木蘭)

The legend of Hua Mulan returns to home soil after a spell with Disney’s animation team and is a much more sober affair. The young lady dons men’s clothes and signs up for the military in place of her sick father, rising through the ranks and encountering all manner of conflict — personal and physical. Worth a peek if you’re a fan of historical battle epics, even if this one is scaled down somewhat, but anyone looking for a feminist subtext can forget it. Stars Vickie Zhao (趙薇), a solid actress but way too good-looking to convince as a cross-dressing military genius, and directed by leading Hong Kong cinematographer Jingle Ma (馬楚成).

Hachiko: A Dog’s Story

After a string of Japanese cute animal movies, here’s an American production with possibly wider international appeal, though it is based on a Japanese legend and movie (it premiered in Japan, but its US release next week is disappointingly low-key). Richard Gere — delightful piece of casting — is a professor who adopts a stray dog. The legend is no secret: The professor dies, but the dog returns to the local railway station every day for a decade to wait for his master to come home. The surprise is that this version enjoyed strong audience feedback. Great supporting cast (Joan Allen as Gere’s wife, Jason Alexander, veteran Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (appropriately enough), director of the well-loved My Life as a Dog (appropriately enough) from 1985, who has happily retained Japanese elements in the story. Warning: The word is that this movie will leave audiences in tears.

The Box

A stranger comes to the door of the home of Cameron Diaz and hubbie James Marsden, gives them a box with a button and informs them that pushing the button will make them instantly wealthy — but lead to the death of a stranger. From here things get complex, compromised and philosophical, as the protagonists’ moral compass spins ever more unsteadily. Sounds a bit like Peter Greenaway meets Hellraiser without most of the gore, though director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) might flinch at the comparison. Based on a story by Richard Matheson that was previously filmed as a Twilight Zone installment.

Pardon My French

The latest French comedy to hit Taiwanese screens stars Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello, also seen recently in Park Benches) as a sufferer of writer’s block so profound that she begins using a different first name. To make matters worse, she inspires an infatuation in a younger woman who just won’t stop being of use. Plot is not as important as tone and performances in this one, which should entertain Francophiles who enjoy offbeat material. Original title: Un Chat un Chat.

Ghost Train

Can’t remember the last time an Indonesian film enjoyed a commercial release in Taiwan, so this ghostly ride is special for at least one reason. Horror fans might be interested in the grafting of other Asian filmmakers’ horror motifs onto an Indonesian setting, though even more mainstream audiences might end up playing count-the-cliche. A girl disappears after boarding a late train; her sister and some dopey friends decide that they are best equipped to track her down despite paranormal activity in the paying area of the station. The Midnight Meat Train did all this better, and a lot bloodier.

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