The Killer Who Never Kills (殺手歐陽盆栽)
Adapted from a short story by best-selling writer Jiubadao (九把刀 or “Nine Knives,” real name Giddens Ko, 柯景騰) and starring pop idol Jam Hsiao (蕭敬騰), this genre flick packs action, romance and comedy into a 108-minute ride aimed at young audiences. Hsiao plays Ouyang, a reluctant hit man who prefers caring for plants to killing people. He is contracted to work for a ruthless underworld boss, but instead of carrying out his assignments, he puts together a team to save his targets. The story has great potential to be funny, and the movie does have several bright moments, such as a self-reflexive joke about Hsiao’s rise from the talent show One Million Star (超級星光大道). Unfortunately, director Li Feng-po (李豐博) needs to work on his character development skills, as the film is populated with cardboard cutouts.
British coming-of-age comedy of adolescent sexual frustration that manages to put a fresh spin on a well-worn genre. The debut feature of Richard Ayoade, probably best known as the computer geek Moss in The IT Crowd, Submarine tells the story of Oliver Tate, whose objectives in life are to lose his virginity before his next birthday and to extinguish the relationship between his mother and an ex-lover who has come back into her life. It blends foot-in-mouth tactlessness with endearing naivete to create characters with no sense of how their words and actions affect others. Smart screenplay that is amusing and touching by turns, and a willingness to dig into the real issues of growing up, make this an unusually satisfying movie.
An amusing concept comedy about an apparently perfect family. They have the best of everything and are the envy of everyone. In fact, the Joneses are not a family at all, but a marketing unit aimed at encouraging everyone else to keep up with the latest products. The “family” members, headed by Demi Moore and David Duchovny, inevitably encounter problems with their own sense of self and their total lack of integrity in everything they do and say. The clever script goes with the clever idea, and there is a real irony in the film as its subject makes product placement necessary rather than purely mendacious and venal.
Midnight in Paris
The latest of Woody Allen’s romantic comedies is a rather fluffy concoction, but it has the virtue of a partial return of his comic wit, which has been sadly off form for some of his more recent releases. Allen’s love affair with Europe is still in full swing, and for Midnight in Paris he allows himself to indulge a love for the City of Light. Helping him to do this are Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, an unlikely duo for such a task. Through a quirk of time, Owen finds himself wondering through a Paris of the 1920s, meeting a host of famous names played as a string of wonderful cameos played by another string of famous names, including Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali. A delightful puff pastry of a film — luscious but essentially empty.
Lover’s Discourse (戀人絮語)
Movie made up of six love stories woven together to create a picture of love in all its many forms. Eason Chan (陳奕迅), Karena Lam (林嘉欣), Mavis Fan (范曉萱) and Eddie Peng (彭于晏) head up the strong cast of beautiful people who inhabit the film, flitting between tales of love triangles, unrequited love, self love, lost love, passionate love and tragic love. Directed by Derek Tsang (曾國祥), son of the veteran director Eric Tsang (曾志偉), the film cleverly intertwines the stories to give its rather whimsical material some sense of unity. The cast is assured enough to carry this insubstantial material for a moody two hours of gently amorous reflection.
Beat the World
Hip-hop crews from around the world gather once again, this time for a dance contest in Detroit with a US$100,000 prize. Yuson (Tyron Brown) believes he can lead his crew to a victory that will give him a down payment on making the big time. The gimmick, and there always is a gimmick, is that he will mix dance with parkour, an extreme sport involving daredevil stunts. There are of course rivals who will do anything to stop him, and romantic encounters with a female crew. Packed with cliches, but plenty of dance moves and an inspiring message for those who need it.
Kenneth is a bit of a misfit, but at a student party he tries to fit in by participating in a drinking game and ends up in a coma. His “friends” leave him for dead. In his comatose state, he manages to manipulate those around him, killing them one by one. Catherine (Arielle Kebbel) has a bit of a conscience but not nearly enough to make her really sympathetic, and the rest of the interchangeable young people clearly deserve everything they get. Adequate slasher material vaguely reminiscent of the much better Australian film Patrick (1978).
Big splashy movie showcasing contemporary flamenco performances. Gorgeous to look at and filled with skillful dancers, the film shows the new directions that flamenco has taken in the hands of some of its newest and most innovative practitioners. From director Carlos Saura, whose 1995 documentary Flamenco, to which this is something of a sequel, received glowing reviews. A must for dance fans.
Conspiracy thriller from South Korean director Kwon Hyeok Jae that offers loads of fast-paced action and high-tech treachery. Starring Sol Kyung-gu, best known for his starring role in the popular action franchise Public Enemy. The director keeps him busy as he battles his way through a slew of villains and corrupt bureaucrats. The action is embedded in a competently woven plot that mixes revelations and twists, keeping the audience involved to the very end. Good, old-fashioned action thriller.
This year’s Kuandu Arts Festival (關渡藝術節), which opened on Sept. 23 and runs through Nov. 29, is focused on music. Under the theme “Joy of Music,” a nod to the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, the program features performances by seven symphony orchestras as well as several Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA, 國立臺北藝術大學) student and faculty shows, in addition to the annual film and animation festivals. However, there is still room for other performing arts, and two productions this weekend and next at the university in the hills of Taipei’s Guandu area (關渡) feature students from the
The prognosis for biodiversity on Earth is grim. According to a sobering report released by the UN last year, 1 million land and marine species across the globe are threatened with extinction — more than at any other period in human history. According to a recent study, about 20 percent of the countries in the world risk ecosystem collapse due to the destruction of wildlife and their habitats, a result of human activity in tandem with a warming climate. The US is the ninth most at risk. Despite this desperate outlook, the Trump administration, as part of its aggressive rollback of regulations designed
A disconsolate mother dressed in white wanders through Mexico City’s floating gardens looking for her children killed by COVID-19, in a pandemic-era adaptation of a legend rooted in Aztec mythology. The traditional play La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) returns to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Xochimilco ahead of the Day of the Dead with a poignant tribute to the victims of COVID-19. The ghost with flowing black hair, who according to legend reappears every year searching for her downed children, has spread throughout Latin America. “It’s dedicated to the memory of all the people who left without saying goodbye to their loved