Thursday, December 31, 2009

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

Zhang Yimou has become best known around the world for his martial arts epics Hero, and House of Flying Daggers. However fans of Asian cinema know that, though those films (and recently his third martial arts picture Curse of the Golden Flower) are spectacular in their own respect, its drama, and simple story telling that this master film maker does best. Riding Along for Thousands of Miles was written for the lead actor Ken Takakura, it’s the story about an aging Japanese fisher man named Gouichi Takata (Ken Takakura) who has been estranged from his son Kenichi for some time. When Takata learns that his son has taken ill, he leaves his small fishing village to visit him in Tokyo. Unfortunately he wants nothing to do with his father anymore. Takata’s daughter wants her father to know what his son is really like. So she gives him a tape to watch. It turns out his son is a film maker who also has a deep passion for Chinese folk opera, the videotape is of a performance that was recorded during one of Kenichi’s visits to China. On the tape he is interviewing a famous opera singer named Li Jiamin (played by an actor named Li Jiamin). Who tells of a great song called “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”, a song from the famous novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," about a general who selflessly went on a long journey to help a friend. Unfortunately Li was too ill that day to perform it for him, so he says to come back to China another time and he, who is the best at performing the song, will show him. Kenichi would never return.

Soon after watching the video Takata learns that his son has terminal cancer to the liver and will not live long. So he decides that he will travel to china, and record Li Jiamin performing “Riding alone for Thousands of Miles” for his dying son. This task however will not be an easy one for him.

What makes this story so good is that it is so very similar to the song which it is named after. The song is about a great General who travels for thousands of miles to help a close friend. The film is about a father who decides to travel thousands of miles himself to do a great deed for his son. Its not only the story that makes this film so beautiful. Most of the filming was done in Lijiang and Yunnan China. Anyone who knows China will agree that there are fewer places in this world with such lavish landscapes. If you did not know, well watch this film! The acting is also a highlight. Takakura is simply stunning in his role. A man with few words, who has given himself a task and is willing to go to any lengths to complete it. Another great performance was given to the young Zhenbo Yang who played Yang Yang(Li Jiamins estranged son). He does not appear for long, or say much, but its his face that truly tells his story.

Zhang Yimou has brought us another masterpiece, Riding Along for Thousands of Miles is definitely one of his best films. If you liked The Road Home, or Takeshi Kitano’s great film Kikujiro. This is a film for you.


A Film By: Zhang Yimou

No Problem 2

When a wealthy business man dies, he leaves his fortune, as well as his company to his daughter Yumiko (Wakana Sakai). This angers his brother Kazuo who expected the fortune to be left to him. So out of anger he hires a hitman to kill her.

Meanwhile, after being fired for daydreaming about being a Hong Kong movie star Kensuke (Takashi Okamura) heads to Hong Kong. When he arrives complications due to an old and confused hotel owner causes him to get mixed up as the killer hired to take out Yumiko. Not fully aware of what happening, he goes along with it. But when he sees her he immediately falls in love and saves her life instead of killing her. But his heroics are short lived when one of Lazuo's henchmen (played fantastically by Collin Chou) kidnaps her and hypnotizes her into giving him her company.

With the aid of a Kung Fu master (Yuen Biao) and his buck-toothed sister (Candy Lo), as well as a bumbling police officer (Sam Lee) the group seeks out to find and rescue the imprisoned Yumiko.

No Problem 2 feels like a combination between Scary Movie, and Kung Fu Hustle. A lot of the movie is made up of parodies of many classic Hong Kong action and martial arts films. And its a real treat.

No Problem 2 is a very fun film to say the least, especially for the hard core fans of Hong Kong films. It is similar to the fashion of the Scary Movies series(and what they did with classic horror films). Except with Scary Movie you had a messy jumble of random film references placed together into an hour and a half of pure stupidity. No problem does not do this, they managed to take famous moments from classic films and not only spoof them, but actually fit them nicely into the context of the plot. And its humor is very reminiscent of a Stephen Chow film. The movie opens up in a church exactly like The Killer and we break into a hilarious gunfight which shows our wanna-be-hero randomly sliding across tables killing hords of baddies with only a few rounds fired. And later when our damsel in distress is kidnaped and dragged onto a bus. Our hero once again busts into action, but first her grabs an umbrella. . .you can see where I am going with this. Throughout the film we also see references to many other films, Drunken master, The Karate Kid, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, and even Who Wants to be a Millionaire!

Another treat was the appearance of Yuen Biao as the wise Kung Fu Master. He is at his comedic best for sure, and he also has a few wonderful fights as well. The rest of the cast was very well put together. Sam Lee pulls of the idiot cop role quite nicely. And Collin Chou shines as the villain in the film. But I must say that the lead actor Takashi Okamura carried the film wonderfully. The role he played is very much like Stephen Chow in Kung Fu hustle. We alo get treated to another great Eric Tsang cameo! Hurray!


A Film By: Chin Kar lok