Fantome, Ou Es-Tu? (酷馬)
Fantome, Ou Es-Tu?
(酷馬) begins with Cool-ma, a teenage marathon runner, accidentally being killed in a gang fight. His spirit lingers on, though, worried that no one will take care of his widowed mother, and the only person able to see the apparition is Cool-ma’s slayer, Tangguo, a restless tomboy whose rich parents have little time for her. The two become friends, and Tangguo takes Cool-man’s place on the marathon team. With a 30-year career in film and television drama under her belt, female director Wang Shau-di (王小棣) is noted for exploring humanity through melodrama. As in her previous works, emotions take precedence over aesthetics and style in Fantome, Ou Es-Tu? Sean Huang (黃遠), who plays Cool-ma, and Jin Cheng (鄭靚歆), cast as Tangguo, are worth a mention for their debut efforts as actors. But the star of the film is renowned choreographer and dancer Ku Min-shen (古名伸), who gives a powerful and memorable performance as a mother gone mad after losing her only child.
Adventure of the King (龍鳳店)
This action comedy starring Hong Kong mega-star Richie Ren (任賢齊) and Taiwan’s very own Barbie Hsu (徐熙媛), otherwise known as Big S (大S), has been slated by the Chinese-language media as a soulless retread of a topic that has been well covered in cinema, and to add insult to injury, it deploys old jokes and stale comic action. The film draws inspiration from the legends surrounding the fondness of the Ming Dynasty emperor Zhengde (正德皇帝) for life on the streets. In one of these ventures he gets separated from his retinue, conveniently loses his memory, and is helped by a beautiful woman who runs an unsuccessful restaurant. A combination of their talents sees her fortunes turn around, but also brings Zhengde to the attention of those who would rather keep the emperor out of the way for good. Big S puts in a solid performance, but only really enters the story during the second hour, which is too late to save the film. There is speculation that Adventure of the King might aspire to being the worst Chinese film of this year, which is no small achievement.
About Her Brother (Ototo)
A film by director Yoji Yamada, who brought us the Tora-san movies and in later life redefined the samurai movie with such classics as the Fujisawa trilogy. Yamada has proven himself a master of exploring complex historical relationships on a human scale, and has a particularly fine command of Japan’s multifaceted transition from tradition to modernity. His skill with female characters has also been widely praised. About Her Brother focuses on three women from three generations, a wedding ceremony and a younger brother who upsets the apple cart of propriety with his drunkenness and childish pranks, but finds he can always return to the protection of his sister. When the younger brother develops lung cancer and saddles his sister with huge gambling debts, Yamada gets serious with tugging at the heartstrings.
A film “from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan,” according to the official trailer, may just make you thankful that at least it is not actually directed by the embattled auteur and perpetrator of The Last Airbender. Directed by Drew and John Erick Dowdle, the story has five people trapped in an elevator in one of those super high-tech buildings. But one of the occupants isn’t what he, or she, appears to be. So guess what? Well, the title is a bit of a giveaway, but M. Night Shyamalan can usually be relied upon to insert a heavy load of New Age mystification into the proceedings, and an inexplicable twist at the end.