30th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival – October 14-24, 2010 (Our picks!)

Woohoo, the HIFF (Hawaii International Film Festival) starts tomorrow and my husband and I are going to attempt to watch eight of the shows this year. Here are the movies that we got tickets to see this year and why it was on our list.

I must warn you though, I’ve been told my taste in movies is not “normal” for a girl.

Thursday, October 14 at 6:00 p.m. – Woochi
HIFF link

Synopsis – JEON WOOCHI: THE TAOIST WIZARD involves an undisciplined, talented Taoist trickster, Woochi, who has been derailed from his search for the implements that will make him the most powerful wizard, ever.

Centuries ago some bumbling demigods erred in their attempt to secure the world from goblins. Now, in a plot that spans pre-modern times into a contemporary Korea, Woochi and his sidekick, a charmed dog-man named Chorangyi, must make their way against formidable wizards and shape-shifting demons in a coerced attempt to save the world. With WOOCHI, Choi has brilliantly executed a breathless action plot that still finds time for coy asides and smart humor– a must-see for all adult ages.
Synopsis written by: Bianca Isaki

Why: I’ve always been a fan of foreign films. I would go through phases of different genres and country foci. But my heart  and my husband’s heart have always held the asian action genre near and dear.

Saturday, October 16 at 9:00 p.m. – Bodyguards and Assassins
HIFF link

Synopsis – Set in turn-of-the-century Hong Kong, B&A is an old school, all star extravaganza the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades. Nominated for more Hong Kong Film Awards than any other movie in history, it broke the bank in Hong Kong and busted the box office wide open in China.

The founder of modern day China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, is coming to Hong Kong for a secret meeting but the Qing Empress wants his Republican head on a plate. The call goes out: volunteers are needed to protect Dr. Sun for the few hours he’s in town. Chances of survival: low. Crossbow battles, primitive IEDs, razor-sharp iron fans and a rain of death ninjas keep things moving as the unprepared bodyguards buy Dr. Sun safe passage across Hong Kong, a few feet at a time, paying for every inch of his journey with their blood.

Restricted to just a few city blocks, B&A is as epic as BEN HUR and as emotional as grand opera. It’s a movie about the men and women who sacrificed themselves for a cause they barely understood, giving their lives for a man they never met, dying for a future they’d never see.
Synopsis written by: New York Asian Film Festival

Why: “. . . old school, all-star extravaganza . . . ,” really, need we say more? (Yes we will!) We are fans of Donnie Yen and Leon Lai, both of which are in two films that we’re aware of in this festival. However the other Donnie Yen film is IP Man 2, a movie we’ve already seen, so naturally . . . .

Monday, October 18 at 6:00 p.m. – Clash
HIFF link

Synopsis – CLASH, starring Johhny Tri Nguyen and Veronica Ngo (the stars of THE REBEL) and directed by Le Thanh Son (who served as an assistant director on THE REBEL) is another reinvention of the Vietnamese action film. Ex-convicts Quan (Johnny Tri Nguyen) and Cang (Johnny Depp look-alike Lam Minh Thang) are part of a hit squad assembled by Trinh (Veronica Ngo) to steal a hard drive from French mobsters. Trinh works for an elusive criminal mastermind who seeks the hard drive to get control of Vietnam’s first and only satellite.

As the crew proceeds to execute the theft, a lone counter-operative from within the crew runs off with the hard drive. Quan reluctantly helps Trinh hunt down the traitor, but nothing is what it seems in this duplicitous world of crime and secret agendas. Director Le’s film represents a milestone in Vietnamese filmed entertainment, cross-pollinating the trends of the West with the sensibilities of the Vietnamese.
Synopsis written by: Anderson Le

Why: We can’t recall the last Vietnamese action movie we’ve seen . . . have we even seen one? This just might be a new treat for us.

Monday, October 18 at 10:15 p.m. – Machete Maidens Unleashed
HIFF link

Synopsis – Busty babes, mutated monsters and midget secret agents, the Filipino genre films of the 70s and 80s had it all. Saturating drive-ins around the world, the Philippines became a dreamland for exploitation filmmakers with cheap labour, exotic scenery and non-existent health and safety regulations.

The all-too-often overlooked world of Filipino exploitation flicks gets the Mark Hartley (NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD) treatment in MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! Featuring interviews with filmmaking legends Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Eddie Romero and a host of filmmakers, actors and critics, each with a story about a genre with no scruples, no scripts, no boundaries and – more often than not – no clothes.

Why: This may be the one documentary we watch during the Festival and what a fun one, not many of the others will be talking about midgets and mutants. Also our improv sensibilities would like to hear more on the; no scruples, no scripts, and no boundaries. Notice what we left out?

Wednesday, October 20 at 10:15 p.m. – Fire of Conscience
HIFF link

Synopsis – The investigation of a prostitute’s murder brings headstrong Detective Manfred (Leon Lai also in HIFF 2010’s BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS) in an unlikely collaboration with shady Inspector Kee (Richie Yen) from the Narcotics Bureau. When DNA of one of Manfred’s colleagues is found at the crime scene, Internal Affairs comes sniffing around. In the line of fire between high levels of corruption, Manfred must solve all the twists of the mystery, reluctantly with Kee. Together, the duo will wage a two-man war and uncover a conspiracy that will threaten to upend the entire police force, and paint the streets of Hong Kong with blood.

This explosive action thriller comes from the mind of action director Dante Lam, who struck action genre gold with his modern classic THE BEAST STALKER, shown at HIFF last year. FIRE OF CONSCIENCE is a tour-de-force that harkens to the golden age of Hong Kong action cinema of the early ‘90s.

Why: This is the second film we’re watching with Leon Lai in it, and a definite husband pick. We both have liked most of the films that we’ve seen him in and this one is also directed by Dante Lam. An action director that enjoys the action!

Friday, October 22 at 10:oo p.m. – Gallants
HIFF link

Synopsis – Martial arts fans will delight in this new kung fu comedy from writer/director duo Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng. As a punishment, incompetent office worker Cheung is sent to a rural village to settle a property dispute between some greedy property developers and the owners of a run-down teahouse. However, the teahouse turns out to be owned by Tiger (Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, KUNG FU HUSTLE) and Dragon (Chen Kuan Tai), two aging martial artists who are anxiously waiting for their master to awaken from a 30-year coma. When Master Law (Teddy Robin) suddenly awakens unaware that any time has passed, Tiger, Dragon and Cheung set out to revive the old martial arts studio.

Featuring a cast of old school kung fu stars from the heyday of martial arts films, GALLANTS sets out to prove that youthfulness is a state of mind. This film is truly an homage to the spirit of kung fu, one that values honor and wisdom and never backs away from a fight.
Synopsis written by: Anna Page

Why: We REALLY want to see this show. We think it’s awesome that the masters of this craft have gotten together for an epic event that is also made to entertain us. We have a lot of respect for them and believe that seeing their movie is one way to show deference.

Saturday, October 23 at 2:15 p.m. – SHODO GIRLS!!
HIFF link

Synopsis – Meet the Shikokuchuo High School Calligraphy Club, a group of oddball students that take their calligraphy so seriously that they send new members fleeing down the halls at top speed. For the Calligraphy Club and their team captain Satoko (Riko Narumi, HOW TO BECOME MYSELF) calligraphy has become a joyless task requiring endless dedication. But when a new club advisor arrives on the scene and performs a strange demonstration to music, he forces the students to view calligraphy in a new and exciting way.

The film is set in Shikokuchuo city, the paper producing capital of Japan. Due to severe economic recession, the town’s local businesses are closing at an alarming rate. Inspired by their new advisor, the Calligraphy Club students set out to organize a competition that will revive both their spirits and the town.

Directed by Ryuichi Inomata, SHODO GIRLS!! is based on a popular televised event called “Shodo Performance Koshien” where groups of high school girls compete by performing traditional calligraphy on 10 meter sheets of paper, choreographed and set to music. SHODO GIRLS!! portrays how this unique competition has revitalized this traditional art form.
Synopsis written by: Anna Page

Why: Calligraphy is beautiful and we’re really interested in seeing how they make this a competitive sport.

Sunday, October 24 at 2:00 p.m. – The Butcher, The Chef, and The Swordsman aka Legend of the Kitchen Knife
HIFF link

Synopsis – This darkly inventive film follows the journey of a mystical blade as it passes through the hands of three ambitious men. As the interwoven story unfolds, they find that the blade possesses the power to dramatically change the fate of each of its owners.

The Butcher is a simple man in love with a beautiful courtesan, but is rebuffed each time he approaches her. The Chef is a handsome loner obsessed with seeking vengeance for the slaughter of his family. The Swordsman, the son of a legendary warrior, is consumed by the desire to eclipse his father in both power and fame.

Their stories comes full circle as each man takes possession of the mystical blade and discovers its double edge – the great power it bestows is matched by even greater danger. If you enjoy KUNG FU HUSTLE or SHAOLIN SOCCER, this film’s kinetic and zany energy will enthrall you.

Why: Quirky kung-fu show usually means tons of fun. Most of the time it also involves well done fight scenes and light humor.

So in closing, this is what we’ll be doing for the next two weeks. Wish us luck we just may be truly zombified by the end of it.

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