Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Releases July 9th, 2015 (North American Premiere at NYAFF)
1 hr 55 min
Language: Korean with English Subtitles
Not Rated


Written and Directed by: Lee Byeong-Heon

Kim Woo-Bin as Chi-Ho
Lee Joon-Ho as Dong-Woo
Kang Ha-Neul as Gyung-Jae
Jung So-Min as So-Min
Jung Joo-Yeon as Eun-Hye
Lee Yoo-Bi as So-Hee
Min Hyo-Rin as Jin-Joo
Kim Eui-Sung as Chi-Ho's father
Park Myung-Shin as Chi-Ho's mother
Oh Hyun-Kyung as Dong-Woo's mother
Park Hyuk-Kwon as Movie Director

Review by The Secret Screener

Chi-Ho (Kim Woo-Bin), Dong-Woo (Lee Joon-Ho) and Gyung-Jae (Kang Ha-Neul) have been best friends since fighting over a girl in high school. Now having graduated high school they are twenty and trying to figure out what they are supposed to do with their lives. 

If you like films like "National Lampoon's Van Wilder", "American Pie", or "Euro Trip" you will love this film. It's about 3 friends at a crossroads in their lives after graduating high school and being twenty years of age. Chi-Ho (Kim Woo-Bin) is the ladies man that has a girlfriend but spends time trying to woo other women, Dong-Woo (Lee Joon-Ho) is an aspiring artist who's family is bankrupt and is working 3 jobs while going to school to work on his art and dream of being a comic book artist, and Gyung-Jae (Kang Ha-Neul) is a virgin in college going after all the wrong women. It's your typical coming of age comedy. I laughed like a fool multiple times from the hijinks and was feeling for the characters when the somber scenes happened in the film. I would suggest this for teens that are trying to figure out what they want their lives to be and for anyone looking to laugh. 

"Twenty" is to comedy what I wish more major studio films should aspire to be like, I walked in to this film cold not knowing anything about at all and was pleasantly surprised. It was funny as hell, emotional when it needed to be and just good. It didn't try to be something it wasn't. It is everything I enjoy about good comedies, It stayed on point to the plot and just made you laugh. One scene where Chi-Ho is pitching his script idea to a movie director had me in tears laughing, I want you all reading this to go watch this film and enjoy it as much as I did. It was great.


The Secret Screener

Monday, June 29, 2015

It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
Released June 12th 2015 (LA Film Festival), June 28th, 2015 (NY Asian Film Festival)
1 hr 19 mins
Not Rated
Comedy, Romance


Director: Emily Ting
Writer: Emily Ting

Jamie Chung as Ruby
Bryan Greenberg as Josh
Richard Ng as Fortune Teller
Sarah Lian as Monica
Lawrence S. Dickerson as Tourist Man
Ines Laimins as Tourist Woman
Joshua Wong as Band Member
Zach Hines as Josh's Friend
Linda Trinh as Joyce
Jaeden Cheng as Sam
Collin Leydon as Daniel
Po-Chih Leong as Taxi Driver
Dave Waheed as Tailor Shop Owner
Harry Du Young as Bleeding Man
Emily Ting as Woman on Phone
Josh Silfen as Man on Phone

Review by Stephen M.

I was fortunate enough to catch It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong at the New York Asian Film Festival.  Currently making its way around the film festivals, the romantic film centers on two individuals that have a chance encounter with each other in Hong Kong.  Incredible chemistry between the two real life couple, Jamie Chung as Ruby and Bryan Greenberg as Josh, clever dialogue and the oh so beautiful vibrant night life of Hong Kong as a character of its own.

Josh is an expat, a New Yorker living in Hong Kong the last ten years, while Ruby, from Los Angeles is on a business trip in Hong Kong for the first time.  They encounter each other outside of a bar, with Ruby seeking direction to a bar to meet up with her friends.  Josh offers his help to bring her there and a five minute walk where they get to know each sparks interest in each other, if only if...

As I said before, with the two actors both being a couple off screen, it definitely helps with the chemistry.  The two veteran actors, Jamie with mostly action films, and Bryan better known for his television roles including One Tree Hill put on superb performances.  The dialogue is quite what you expect but yet intelligent and witty to keep you interested even when the majority of the film is just the two walking and talking.  Veteran Hong Kong actor Richard Ng is great in his cameo as a fortune teller that Ruby and Josh comes across.  The enthusiasm that Richard brings out elevates the game of the two leads in that scene.

There is little to find fault with the film.  It was not quite what I was expecting but thoroughly enjoyed it anyway.  I would have preferred a different ending, and the majority of the audience seemed to agree when the screen rolled to credits.  As well since the film is a romantic film with humor sprinkled throughout as the two playfully engaged each other this might not be for a bunch of guys looking for something similar to Hangover or Old School.

Overall, I would recommend this film if you have a chance to catch it at a festival.  It is a great date movie, as well an interesting look into a side of Hong Kong from a foreigner's perspective.  Following my screening, there was a Q&A with the Director and two leads.  Jamie prodded Emily to the audience the origin of the idea which actually came from Emily's experience living as an expat.   Emily explained though that her actual experience was less romantic, and as well the real life Josh are still friends to this day.  Also during the Q&A they discussed the difficulties of shooting the film in a foreign land despite having all the permits in place but not enough funds to block off streets.  To me, this added to the realism of the film, the vibrancy of Hong Kong as the third lead character.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ninjak Volume 3 #4
Released June 24th 2015 (Available now)
Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Juan Jose' Ryp w/ Clay Mann & Seth Mann, Marguerite Sauvage (22 page main story), and Butch Guice w/ Brian Thies (8 page Back Up story) 
Color Art by Ulises Arreola 
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Edited by Warren Simons
Covers by Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic (Regular cover), Dave Johnson (Variant cover), Rafa Sandoval (25th Anniversary cover), Raul Allen (Variant cover), Marguerite Sauvage (Variant cover)

Review by The Secret Screener

Disclaimer there are characters that you will not know if you don't know anything about the Valiant universe. 

Are you a fan of spy stories? Than Ninjak is your cup of tea. It stars Collin King, wealthy son of privilege as Ninjak, spy and mercenary for hire. Since I read this issue not having read the 3 previous, I'm going to tell you what the "Previously in Ninjak" section says: "British Espionage organization MI-6 tsked Colin with infiltrating and destroying "Weaponeer", a criminal empire that designs weapons for the highest most illicit bidders. Disguised as businessman Henry Collins, Ninjak ingratiated himself to the group's imposing leader, Kannon. He also met Kannon's right-hand woman, Roku, an assassin so feared that skilled warriors have taken their own lives rather than face her razor-sharp locks of hair and her deadly skills.  Unbeknownst to Collin, Roku knows there's a spy in Kannon's midst and the two expose "Henry Collins" as Ninjak. It's out in the open - Weaponeer knows who he is, Kannon Knows who he is. Roku knows who he is.   ...but who is Roku?"

Basically the issue starts at the point where they have Ninjak cornered and from there it goes in to a flashback of Roku remembering how she became the super powered assassin she is. It's a interesting story that at times feels kinda misogynistic. But shows a woman will do anything and everything she can to survive when intimidating obstacles are in her way. If you love female leads in either television shows like "Alias", "Dollhouse", or shows similar than you'll love this issue. It's just a part of the first story arc of the series, but if this issue is an example of how great the rest of story is, sign me up. It shows how great Matt Kindt's writing is and the art team for the book makes the story better than other espionage stories I've read. And the back up story is intriguing but I honestly couldn't make heads or tails about it. It was a story about 3 guys finding a meditating monk and feeling the need to build him shelter. I'm guessing it will lead to more in future issues but for a new reader I was just left going "Huh?". 

Pet peeves about the book for me is, why do they need 5 different covers for a comic? One would have been sufficient and maybe one variant for collectors, but 5? Besides that the only other issue I have is the feeling of wanting to kick myself in the butt for sleeping on this series. It's amazing from what I've read, and I definitely strongly recommend you go today and go buy this book. It was a great read and looks to be a series to follow if you love the genre. 

Spoilers *********************************

The man who burns the monk's ears off is "Master Darque" a long time villian in the Valiant universe since the original Valiant books in the 90's.

Spoilers over *******************************

Out of 5 stars I give this book a solid 4 stars, a great read and a great series from my reaction to this issue. 


The Secret Screener

Port of Call
Released April 6, 2015 (HKIFF), June 26, 2015 (NYAFF)
2 hrs 0 mins
Languages: Cantonese with English subtitles
Crime, Drama


Director: Philip Yung
Writer: Philip Yung

Aaron Kwok as Officer Chong
Elaine Jin as Jiamei's Mother
Patrick Tam
Jessie Li as Jiamei Wang
Michael Ning as Chi-Chung Ting
Jackie Cai
Maggie Shiu
Eddie Chan
Hatou Yeung
Ellen Li
Don Li
Ronny Yuen
Tam Ping-man
Noel Leung
Tai Bo
Chan Lai-wan

Review by Stephen M.

Aaron Kwok's latest Hong Kong film that helped to open the New York Asian Film Festival has many things to like in a crime drama.  Amazing acting by its lead characters, and visually stunning cinematography unfortunately is set backed by the Director's unusual choice of sequencing due to the heavy use of flashbacks.  Based on a true story of a murder of a 16 year old prostitute in Hong Kong back in 2008, the approach taken by Director Philip Yung is a big risk that ultimately pays off despite some flaws.

It is quite interesting in that their biggest lead in the film which is Aaron Kwok as Officer Chong, while an interesting character doesn't necessarily has the most memorable scenes.  Jessie Li as Jiamei, the victim and Michael Ning as Chi-Chung Ting, the suspect puts on amazing performances that will memorize you every time they get some screen time.  This despite Chi-Chung Ting's limited dialogue, his presence in the way he just carries himself in each scene is quite heavy.  In addition to the superb acting, I love the fact that the film is not so much a who did it but why?  The methodical approach that Philip Yung takes in breaking apart the crime to explain every little facet is engrossing.  There's a heavy use of flashbacks that both is a blessing and a curse.

No major spoilers but in regards to the flashbacks, there is one particular scene, where Jiamei's mother asks her for some earrings back that was given to her by her mother's friend who wants it back not knowing how expensive they were.  Immediately after that scene, we have a scene showing the mother's friend asking for the earrings back from Jiamei's mother... Wouldn't it have made more sense to show it in order of the friend asking first and then the mother asking the daughter?  As well, aside from some flashbacks showing the year, there is a bit of confusion as to the order of some of the flashbacks as far as Jiamei's relationship to Chi-Chung Ting.

Overall, I would recommend this film.  Rarely do you see a crime drama as thought provoking and methodical as Port of Call.  Aaron Kwok continues to show that his acting abilities can rival his singing skills in playing multi-faceted characters.  I look forward to seeing more films by Michael Ning and Jessie Li with their phenomenal performances in Port of Call.  Today is the last day to catch the film at New York Asian Film Festival.  Hopefully you have tickets already as there is a Q&A afterwards with the Director Philip Yung and Aaron Kwok and tickets are sure to sell out.


Solomon's Perjury Part 2: Judgement
Releases North American Premiere July 10, 2015 (New York Asian Film Festival 2015)
 2 hr 29 min

Language: Japanese with English Subtitles


Director: Izuru Narushima
Writer: Miyuki Miyabe (based on the novel by)

Ryôko Fujino as (Young) Ryoko Fujino
Anna Ishii as Juri Miyake
Miu Tomita as Matsuko Asai
Hiroya Shimizu as Shunji Ooide
Mizuki Itagaki as Kazuhiko Kanbara
Koki Maeda as Kenichi Noda
Ayumu Mochizuki as Takuya Kashiwagi
Reika Nishihata as Mariko Kurata
Jiei Wakabayashi as Yukio Sakisaka
Naritada Nishimura as Kosei Inoue
Mikio Kato as Yutaro Hashida
Arata Ishikawa as Mitsuru Iguchi
Kuranosuke Sasaki as Tsuyoshi Fujino
Yui Natsukawa as Kuniko Fujino
Hiromi Nagasaku as Mirai Miyake
Haru Kuroki as Emiko Moriuchi
Fumiyo Kohinata as Masao Tsuzaki
Haru Kuroki as Emiko Moriuchi
Tomoko Tabata as Reiko Sasaki
Nobue Iketani as Toshie Azai
Muga Tsukaji as Yohei Tsukaji
Sotaro Tanaka as Etsuo Mogi
Miwako Ichikawa as Minae Kakiuchi
Tamae Ando as Takagi
Houka Kinoshita as Kusuyama
Yutaka Matsushige as Kitao 

Machiko Ono as (Adult) Ryôko Fujino

Review by The Secret Screener

 If you love dramas, thrillers, suspenseful films give this film a watch. It has beautiful cinematography, and not so great pacing.  For those of you that haven't seen the first film "Solomon's Perjury Part 1: Suspicion" don't worry. The sequel gives you a recap of the events in the first film to get you up to speed prior to the second film starting. 

The students after all the turmoil and chaos from another student's death (Takuya 
Kashiwagi played by Ayumu Mochizuki) decide to hold a mock trial run by the students to determine who if anyone killed Kashiwagi or if like the authorities and school administration said, was a suicide. To much of a chagrin of school administrators, Ryoko is determined to get the truth. Obviously the school administrators are totally against it but due to a mistake by one of the administrators are forced to let her have it. 

The film then goes from the thriller/ suspense film the last one was to a court room drama yet set in a junior high school gymnasium. Like the last film a great drama that will have you regretting you haven't got in to asian cinema sooner. I know it did for me. 

Having gushed over the last film prior and this one have one major gripe: TOO MANY PREGNANT PAUSES! For example, When a scene is over in most american films it would automatically go to the  next scene. This film would linger after the last word of dialogue was spoken in the scene for about a minute, Yet to me at times felt like an eternity.  

It's a great film, yet kinda felt like a let down from the film prior. To me the sequel lacked something the first film had. If you are going to see the first film be forewarned it's not as great as the first one. 


The Secret Screener

Yesterday was opening night for the 14th Annual New York Asian Film Festival at Lincoln Center.  There was a reception at the gallery at the Walter Reade Theater to start off.  Ringo Lam and Aaron Kwok both spoke to the packed crowd of supporters and press.


Opening the night of over 50+ films at the New York Asian Film Festival was Aaron Kwok's Port of Call.  But prior to the start, the audience was treated to a sick percussion performance by the all female musician group Cobu.  Featuring elements of traditional Taiko drumming along with rhythmic tap dancing.

After Cobu's performance, the organizers for the New York Asian Film Festival was introduced and finally, Aaron Kwok was presented with his Star Asia award for his film achievements.

Check back soon for videos of the Cobu performance as well as Aaron's acceptance speech!

The New York Asian Film Festival runs from June 26th to July 11th.  For more info on their schedule of events and films, visit: http://www.subwaycinema.com/nyaff15/