Zhao Shi Gu Er (趙氏孤兒)
The title, which translates as “the orphan of the Zhao family,” has also been released as Sacrifice. This is the newest film by Chinese director Chen Kaige (陳凱歌), who shot to international stardom with Farewell My Concubine in 1993, but has had a distinctly uneven record since then. Zhao Shi Gu Er, a big-budget costume drama adapted from one of Chinese opera’s best-loved stories, is chock-full of passion and vengeance, and boasts a solid cast led by Ge You (葛優), who stars alongside Wang Xueqi (王學圻), Fan Bingbing (范冰冰) and Vincent Chiu (趙文卓). Part of a brutal power play in the imperial court, the Zhao clan is exterminated, but one child is saved by a doctor, who goes on to use the youngster to exact revenge on the perpetrator of the killings.
The Adjustment Bureau
Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, this head-spinning mix of political paranoia and pop theology is enlivened by splendid acting by Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. The two provide a powerful old-fashioned romantic jolt. The Adjustment Bureau may look like a lightweight version of Inception, but it manages to come together as a hugely entertaining piece of cinema in its own right. Brought to the screen by writer-director-producer George Nolfi (who wrote The Bourne Ultimatum and Ocean’s Twelve), The Adjustment Bureau has sufficient pace and sharp enough dialogue to carry it over some of its more sketchy plot holes.
Based on a play by Wajdi Mouawad, Incendies follows twins Jeanne (Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) as they fulfill their dead mother’s wish for them to uncover their family’s past. The film, by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, was nominated in the best foreign language picture category at the Oscars last month. Incendies has high ambitions to explore the reverberations of Middle Eastern violence as it tears families apart, wherever they might seek refuge. The mix of melodrama, some riveting moments of action, sharp plot twists and long stretches of deliberate art house pacing demand a lot from its audience, but overall this film is a compelling and thoughtful piece of work.
Live action adaptation of a well-known manga by Hiroya Oku. Gantz is an action adventure in which Kei Kurono and his friend Masaru Kato die in a train accident and are revived as fighters by a mysterious agency called Gantz, which deploys a band of “dead” humans in its battle against an alien race. Each mission the two engage in wins them points that can be collected to obtain their freedom and a return to normal life. The original manga is famous for its violence, nudity, and the tendency to present humanity as being pretty reprehensible, but the movie has toned this down to turn it into a mainstream science fiction action film.
Manga adaptation about a sad-sack boxer who gets things together after meeting up with an old coach and fights his way back to self-respect and boxing success. Essentially a Rocky story, but set in 1960s Japan. This is the movie debut of pop idol Tomohisa Yamashita, who plays the title role, and whose boy band good looks set the tone for the film, which features some highly choreographed fights, but certainly nothing that is likely to knock you out.