Red Riding Hood
A distinctly modern and adult take on the well-known children’s story that ups the sexual chemistry and throws in a werewolf and other supernatural elements. From Twilight saga director Catherine Hardwicke, Red Riding Hood stars Amanda Seyfried (who played Sophie in Mamma Mia!) as the red-capped beauty in question, and despite the medieval setting, teen romance is written all over this movie, a mood that is further underlined by the percussive rock score. Red Riding Hood is caught between the love of brooding outsider Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) and wealthy and good-looking Henry (Max Irons). As Solomon the werewolf hunter, Gary Oldman looks like he has walked off the stage of a provincial Shakespeare revival. He leads an inquisition within the village that reveals too many secrets.
World Invasion: Battle of Los Angeles
As much pleasure as the obliteration of Los Angeles may give to some, it is probably not sufficient to get excited about World Invasion: Battle of Los Angeles, a big-budget, big-effects alien invasion movie. An asteroid shower turns into an alien invasion by intergalactic types who seem intent on wiping out the human race. Both human and alien hardware is well rendered, and the desperate struggle of a marine platoon to save itself manages moments of genuine excitement, but in general this is just another generic apocalyptic tale.
Blue Valentine met with a polarized reception at Sundance last year and scored highly with the hard-core cinephile set at Cannes. It was dismissed at the Oscars, probably for reasons similar to the cold shoulder given to Winter’s Bone. The film is a sexually and emotionally frank film about a working-class American marriage, and uses its two stars, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, to go places that mainstream films seldom visit. Although the topic is rooted in American culture, the intense, Method-based character construction and its ventures into hyper-real color saturated cinematography give it the feel of the European art house. Love it or hate it, Blue Valentine does not leave much middle ground.
Mysteries of Lisbon (Misterios de Lisboa)
This movie is not to be undertaken lightly. It is a Dickensian narrative that follows a jealous countess, a wealthy businessman and an orphaned boy across Portugal, France, Italy and Brazil and encompasses themes of prostitution, murder, romance, war and spiritual malaise. It does this over a running time of 272 minutes, but according to Variety magazine, which describes it as “a period drama of contemporary import — and of the highest order,” both the narrative and the imagery are captivating. Based on a book by 19th-century novelist Camilo Castelo Branco, Mysteries of Lisbon is directed by Raoul Ruiz and manages to be engaging and accessible even when everyone in the film is embroiled in secrets and lies.
Undertow is a ghost story combined with a tale of gay romance in rural Peru that has proven a huge success on the festival circuit through its ability to transcend narrow genre tags. While taking on psychological and metaphysical themes related to love, loss and true identity, the story is rooted in the daily lives of its characters, who reside in a small Peruvian village. The ghost of fisherman Miguel’s deceased lover lingers on in the corporal world, and while Miguel had managed to keep the affair secret when it was happening, now his lover is dead and the story begins to seep out.
And Soon the Darkness
Two pretty girls on the road in the backwoods of Argentina get into all kinds of trouble with nasty locals who have only one thing on their mind. The camera work is competent, the backdrops nice, the two stars, Amber Heard and Odette Yustman, are fine to look at, but And Soon the Darkness doesn’t have any real drama. The film’s whole torture porn angle is way too tame to appeal to audiences looking for a Saw or Hostel experience.
Scott Saulters wasn’t sure if his film had just taken one of the two top prizes at a recent film competition. Although Saulters has been in Taiwan for 15 years and is proficient in Mandarin, the award ceremony for the inaugural “Bi Tian Iann” (眯電影) short film contest was conducted entirely in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), a language he can’t speak. “I thought I heard it, but I didn’t want to look too excited,” he says. Despite his limited command of the tongue, Saulter’s entry, Wu Yu Tzu (烏魚子, mullet roe), took first place in the amateur category of the
The Taiwan of yesteryear was dominated in whole or in part by the Dutch, Spanish, Qing Empire and Japanese. But is the Taiwanese name for a popular edible fish derived from the Portuguese language? Cheng Wei-chung (鄭維中), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, says yes. The fish in question is the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, which was listed in early 18th century Qing local gazetteers as Taiwanese specialities alongside milk fish and mullet, according to Cheng’s paper, “Mullet, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel and milkfish: Multiple contextual developments of three certified seafood specilaities in Taiwan, from the
I didn’t expect to spend more than three minutes out of my car, yet the sun was so brutal I put on my hat before approaching the seawall. Beimen (北門) is the flattest and most sun-baked part of Tainan. It lacks trees and people. In wintertime, the weather is often delightful. It wasn’t yet mid-morning in the hot season, however, and I felt like a leaf shriveling in the desert. Atop the seawall but facing inland, I could see dozens of the rectangular ponds which account for a significant percentage of Beimen’s “land” area. Some, no doubt, were dug to produce
Aug. 10 to Aug. 16 They called him the “No Problem Doctor” (沒關係醫生) because that’s what he always told his patients when they couldn’t pay up. Operating the only clinic in Changhua County’s Pusin Township (埔心) during the 1950s, Hsu Tsai-chih (許再枝) knew that life was difficult in his remote hometown. “They barely had enough to survive, so it was pointless to chase after them for the money,” an 81-year-old Hsu told the United Daily News in 2002. “I just went with the flow, some offered to pay me back years later but I had already forgotten