2011 was a slow year for Asian films. There were good surprises, some nice little gems, but also lots of disappointment and no true masterpiece. In any case, here are the highlights and lowlights of asian cinema in 2011 according to Wildgrounds.
A lucky spirit sent back to earth, in the body a teenager, and must figure out what sin he committed in his previous life. A down-to-earth story dealing with some harsh issues such as suicide, prostitution, loneliness. A subtle film where major dramatic details are perfectly rendered by the animation.
CONFESSIONS OF A DOG (JPN)
A very lengthy feature (three hours and fifteen minutes) deals with the criminal justice system in Japan, and that is as deliciously engrossing as it is disturbing, Gen Takahashi's 'Confessions of a Dog' is perhaps the most devastating indictment of Japan's police ever committed to film.
TOMORROW’S JOE (JPN)
Directed by Fumihiko Sori, Tomorrow's Joe is a live-action adaption of the critically acclaimed boxing manga. Tomohisa Yamashita plays Joe to manga perfection, Yusuke Iseya as his rival Rikiishi also has a body in the film to die for. Kudos too to the art director for getting the characters all look similar to their original source material.
A group of female high school friends who gradually drift apart and then seek each other out again. The film shows also the dictatorial regime during the 1980s in South Korea, using great pop songs… You may cry & laugh watching Sunny. It’s worth it.
INVASION OF ALIEN BIKINI (KOR)
A city hero saves a girl but she is an alien which needs sperms to reproduce. She seduces the city hero who has taken a vow of chastity.
WOMAN KNIGHT OF MIRROR LAKE (HK)
Director Herman Yau tells the story of the revolutionary & feminist Qiu Jin, who couldn’t stand anymore the feudal rules of the Imperial China. In other words, the tale of a young strong-willed woman who used kung-fu & poetry to transform society, early 20th Century. It’s a nice entertainment, with some really nice fight scenes, an interesting leading character, pointing out some rarely mentioned issues without blatant propaganda to idealize revolution.
A NIGHT IN NUDE: SALVATION (JPN)
An atmospheric & erotic neo-noir thriller from director Takashi Ishii, it’s the follow-up of ‘A Night in Nude‘. Set 17 years later, handyman Tetsuro Muraki finds himself involved in a murder case. It’s typically the story of a lonely man falling for the femme fatale, with Ishii focusing on the woman’s psychology. It allows him to depict gruesome things, dealing with hidden desires, incest, identity. prostitution… Showing Japan’s most sinister-disturbing face. Great camerawork & beautifully-colored cinematography.
PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA (JPN)
Director Akiyuki Shinbo and writer Gen Urobuchi tackle magical girl tropes with Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a dark take on a magical girl genre. Puella Magi Madoka Magica breaks new ground visually with its unique cutup art style.
There’s a lot to like about Stein’s; Gate. We have a great setting, complete with time travel, paradoxes and international criminal conspiracies, led by the most evil organization in history, SERN, with their diabolical plan to construct the Large Hadron Collider.
COLD FISH (JPN)
Shamoto's teenage daughter gets caught shoplifting. A generous fellow fish-store owner and his wife appear to help resolve the situation by having her work at their fish store. Too good to be true? You bet! Shamoto soon discovers the horrific truth about this seemingly perfect couple who inextricably weave him into their grisly rituals. Inspired by true events.
The result feels forced, trying hard to shock while attempting to make a bold social commentary on contemporary Japan – lack of communication, social alienation… everything you’ve heard about Japan these past 20 years.
13 ASSASSINS (JPN)
A group of unemployed samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord and prevent him from ascending to the throne. Director, Takashi Miike focused on creating amazing & elegant visuals but most of the time, dialogues are just repeating-underlining what appears on-screen. Compared to the original film, which is far from perfection, Miike’s 13 Assassins isn’t playing at all with genre elements.
When a tycoon's daughter is found dead of cocaine overdose after being rescued from abduction, he will stop at nothing to avenge her.
OVERHEARD 2 (HK)
Another disappointing “sequel”. The first film was a pretty exciting solid thriller. With Overheard 2, they took the same actors, changed roles & stories, using the financial crisis. Unfortunately, this thriller falls apart too quickly, with no sense of tension or mystery. There are some action scenes to keep you awake but poorly directed.
WU XIA (HK)
This might be one of the best martial arts films from China this year, but it ultimately fails to fully embrace the genre’s mythology. No heroic adventure (re)defining Donnie Yen as the new Wu Xia hero, but just a simple investigation-revenge story showing the down-to-earth side of martial arts & the reality of acupuncture points. Film is visually beautiful, action scenes are great, but the story lacks of depth and its second part isn’t convincing nor interesting enough.
BLEAK NIGHT (KOR)
Following the suicide of high school student Gi-tae, his father attempts to find his son’s closest friends, Hee-joon and Dong-yoon, in an effort to discover why Gi-tae chose to take his own life.
This broken friendship story is depressing, uninvolving and especially boring as hell. It tries to be a subtle and sensitive film, but has nothing to tell.
KAIJI SEASON 2 (JPN)
The first season was brilliant, with Kaiji as an eternal loser full of resources, facing demoniac gambles, and forced to improvise strategies to survive. But this 2nd season is really a disappointment, mostly in the second half with the painful & never-ending pachinko game.
Redline is about the biggest and most deadly racing tournament in the universe. Only held once every five years, everyone wants to stake their claim to fame.
It’s surely an eye-candy paying tribute to the 1980s spirit, with nice hand-drawn animation & warped perspectives. But, nevertheless, there’s no story, no proper characters, no sense of tension-suspense to make races more involving, or more crazy.
sources: list by wildgrounds
synopses/reviews via imdb, otakuinreview, twitchfilm, draggle, rottentomatoes
what about paradise kiss? idol bomb???