In 1949 war-torn Shanghai, a couple is forced apart when a Nationalist soldier escapes to Taiwan leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend. In 1987, the elderly former soldier returns for her. Ignoring the fact that his ex-lover already has a mate (a former Communist soldier), several adult children (including the Nationalist’s son) and grandchildren, he insists she leave them for him. Featuring frequent tender moments; abundant dining, drinking and singing, this film avoids stepping on political landmines while examining the effects of war on ordinary people who just want to be together, or apart.
Although everyone calls him Boy, he’s anything but. Only 11 years-old, Boy is already the man of the house — cooking, cleaning and seeing the kids off to school after his grandmother leaves him in charge of their rural New Zealand Maori home.
Yet, in spite of his adult responsibilities, Boy is like any other kid. Whenever he’s not fantasizing about his hero, Michael Jackson, he nurses a crush on schoolmate, Chardonnay, who shuns him. And, he watches over his younger brother Rocky who’s still traumatized by their mother’s death.
When their father arrives unexpectedly from prison with two slacker friends, Boy is ecstatic. But his ecstasy is short-lived when his dad, demanding to be addressed as Shogun, reveals an ulterior motive for his return.
This multi-layered, tragicomedy mesmerizes with its genuine characters and believable child actors. Writer, director and stand-up comic Taika Wakatiti also stars.
Bruce Lee, My Brother
If this film is an accurate portrayal of Bruce Lee, then his real life was much more dramatic than any movie he ever starred in. Apparently, the martial arts guru hailed from a boisterous family headed by a Peking opera actor (and opium-addicted) father — which is how Lee ended up becoming a child actor. His martial arts quest came later, after numerous street fights and run-ins with drug dealers and thugs. Told from the perspective of Lee’s youngest brother, Robert, this tale is an entertaining period piece set against the Japanese and British occupations of Hong Kong. Star Aarif Rahman’s physical resemblance to Lee is quite startling.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Wowie zowie! What a glorious wuxia film set during the Tang Dynasty with panoramic skylines, a giant Buddha statue, China’s first female Emperor and her beautiful woman bodyguard, imploding generals, an albino assistant, a chaplain who appears as a deer, magic tricks and martial arts. When a detective banished eight years earlier is summoned to the royal court to solve several fiery deaths, he’s unprepared to learn the truth about his one-handed friend.
Working in Taipei, two Filipino friends are on high alert for deportation officers. Despite having a married mistress in Taiwan and a wife in the P.I., Dado is the sensible one. He only wants to earn enough to send his daughter a Barbie doll for her birthday and eventually return home. But his hyperkinetic friend, Manuel, feels differently. Imagining that every beautiful woman desires him as much as he does her, Manuel is constantly rejected. On their day off from work, the men find a luxurious, discarded sofa. Fantasizing about drinking cold beers on that couch atop the roof on a starlit night, Manuel convinces the pragmatic Dado to help him haul it to their dorm — taking the entire film to drag it throughout Taipei. Ostensibly a comedy, this film harbors a powerful message about the miseries of being a guest worker.
With the advent of Vietnamese immigrants, nail salons in America have flourished. This is especially true in California where Vietnamese manicurists number 80 percent. In this sensual film, an auto mechanic visits a nail shop to have his hands cleaned after his high-powered lawyer wife refuses his sexual advances. After having Tam manicure his nails, Brendan returns often — seeking her advice on how to seduce his own wife. Meanwhile, Tam dates an electrical engineer she has no interest in. As she gives lessons in lust to the mechanic, Tam cares for her ailing father who believes she’s never forgiven him for destroying what she once loved most in the world.