Best (Or At Least Decent Movies) Of 2007 Asian Or Otherwise

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The List

In no particular order here are some of my favorite picks for films that I happened to see or stumble across (some of which I've posted on before) that seemed to stick out in my mind for this post, and while all aren't Oscar award winners - who said they had to be?

As a quick note too, some of these might have been released in late '06, but then made their release here in the U.S. in '07 on the big screen or on DVD (or if U.S. didn't get a wide release until '07) - and if you find yourself going "What about..." - just know that I wanted to see them all but couldn't, and even more so wanted to like them all, but didn't.

I also provided a list at the bottom of some films I haven't seen but I heard were good (or were of interest to me).

Shanghai Kiss

Written and co-directed by David Ren (along with Kern Konwiser) this was definitely one of the surprise films of the year for me because I just wasn't expecting it to be as fun and quirky as it ended up being - and there were some great performances by Ken Leung and Hayden Panettiere who really made the movie work (and it was nice to see Kelly Hu as well).

At the same time, I thought the film was bold in a romantic comedy kind of way because of the storyline and the age choices, which in the hands of other filmmakers and actors might not have worked, and in fact could have gone horribly wrong - but they managed to pull it off and still did it while being fun, and remaining at its core a romantic comedy/drama.

Finishing The Game

Chalk this one up to the movie that made the most noise on the Asian American scene for a variety of reasons including the all star cast, its independent vibe, and being helmed by Justin Lin - and no matter what you thought of it - I think you have to respect what it was trying to do and the statement that it was making.

For my own tastes - I really liked the film. I thought it had some laugh out loud moments, a cool retro feel, great cameos and storylines, a diverse cast - and on top of it all delivered an important message to the screen that often gets overlooked or misunderstood.

Lust, Caution

There were some incredible performances in the movie from Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Tang Wei, and Joan Chen under the careful direction of Ang Lee in this epic drama, and I recommend seeing it, in part if only to see some of the scenes people are talking about.

But even without them, the movie would still work - which is a credit to everyone involved - and while I'm partial to Ang Lee's early movies like Eat Drink Man Woman or The Wedding Banquet - this is still a great addition to his collection.

The Detective

If you're a fan of anything Pang related and you haven't seen this yet - get out and pick it up because you'll be pleasantly surprised.

In this crime/thriller/detective movie styled by Oxide Pang and featuring Aaron Kwok - Oxide gets back to some of what he does best - great editing and direction along with a pumping soundtrack to underscore a pretty well written movie where you'll also see some cameos by Elle Choi and Kiki Sheung (to name a few) as lowbrow Detective Tam and his friend Policeman Chak work through a series of murders and events that just don't add up.

Election 2

The bottom line is that this is a must see for anyone into the Triad/Gangster/Mafia genre, because you'll love every moment of the movie.

If you haven't seen the first (or even if you have), watching them back to back is a great ride too, because it really pulls everything together from the first movie, and you also get to witness the great direction of Johnny To and how he keeps the same mood and feel throughout the second film which isn't easy to do (at least from a viewer's perspective).

I'm a Cyborg But That's Ok

Some of the most unique characters and stories/subplots from this year that I can think of, and the film definitely cements Park Chan-wook as one of the most innovative filmmakers alive today.

From the visuals to the amount of detail put into each of the characters' personalities and the fantasies they have, there's just not anything out there like it - and while there have been some great movies featuring patients in mental institutions - I think this probably tops most of them.

As an added bonus you also get to see Rain make his big screen debut (which also earned him a Best New Actor award at the 43rd Baeksang Arts Awards).

Forest Of Death

Like I said at the beginning - these aren't all award winners - and one of the reasons this movie is on this list is because it didn't suck.

When you have a story that involves a haunted forest that makes people commit suicide, paired with a botanist that finds out he can communicate with plants, and throw in a love triangle - the fact that it doesn't suck deserves a mention.

And really - I don't know how they did it - but with Shu Qi, Rain Li, Eken Cheng, and directed by Danny Pang from the Pang Brothers - the movie is actually pretty fun for a thriller/crime/horror.

Sure it's not that scary, and the characters aren't that deep, but if you have some time to kill at least you can say you watched a film where a hard nosed detective and a botanist team up to solve murders in a haunted forest.

Operation Makeover

I'm a sucker for these types of flicks - I'll admit it. I just can't help myself from wanting to see a movie about a flawed main character (Ko So-young) who goes back in time to right the wrongs from her past love-life and meets up with her younger self (An Jo) where hi-jinx ensue but everyone still learns a lesson and there's even a little bit of a tear jerker thrown in for good measure - all of which I knew going into the movie.

But as light and often candy-coated as the movie was it did fare much better than the '07 release The Worst Guy Ever, where by the end I just couldn't take the main characters, and was better filmed and thought through than The Perfect Couple (but that did have some good laughs).

The Host

Absolutely a movie that just gets better each time you view it because you realize how good it truly is and how it takes the typical monster movie and pushes it up to a whole new level that outside of Peter Jackson's King Kong just can't be compared too.

One of the best things I love about this movie is how Bong Joon-ho ads so much detail to each character, even making his Han River monster have a sense of vanity.

It's because of that attention to every aspect of the movie which makes it so good to watch.

My wife is a Gangster 3

Just a note that this is from a previous post on the movie.

You kind of have to understand the series as a whole to understand this romantic comedy where the love and romance is there - but at arms length (which some see as questionable chemistry but in essence is really on par with the rest of the series in many ways, even though this is a totally new story in the series).

With Shu Qi playing the daughter of a Hong Kong crime boss exiled to Korea where Lee Bum-soo and his pack of Korean bumbling gangsters are forced to keep an eye on her - this is a cute and funny action romance movie where Yeong Hyeon as the interpreter translating between Shu Qi and Lee Bum-soo provides some of the best laughs in the film - which interestingly enough is also probably one of the better movies that Shu Qi has been in as of late.

Bloody Reunion

A revenge slasher movie done right where there's really not much, if anything, to complain about. You get a great story, suspense, blood, gore, revenge - and you get characters who usually don't have as much depth in a typical slasher/horror flick.

If you liked the Saw movies you'll definitely like Bloody Reunion.

Paris, Je T'aime

I really can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this movie because it really did give me more than I expected (and the expectations were high) - and I also think it's a great "starter film" for anyone wanting to get someone else (or themselves) more into foreign film because of the bite sized 5 minute vignettes and some of the U.S. actors and directors attached to it as well.

With direction by the Cohen Brothers, Gurinder Chadha, Isabel Coixet, Alfonso Cuarón, Gérard Depardieu, Gus Van Sant, and Christopher Doyle (to name a few), along with some great performances by Gena Rowlands, Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Buscemi, Catalina Sandino Moreno and a slew of others - it's definitely a must see.

Eastern Promises

This David Cronenberg movie with Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts completely snuck up on me as I didn't really know much about it before I saw it - and while that may have been part of its appeal because I didn't really know what to expect - it became one of my top picks as it has everything you could want in a mafia/suspense/thriller movie.

Great filmmaking and performances, especially by Viggo Mortensen who wasn't afraid to take some chances where other actors wouldn't have dared.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

This was the only Harry Potter movie I didn't fall asleep through the first time watching it.

I don't really know what makes me fall asleep through the HP movies the first time - in the theater no less - but I'm out like a light a quarter of the way into them and then wake up sometime near the end with 20 minutes left.

Except for this one.

So judging from my narcoleptic responses from the first four I guess that's quite an accomplishment, and as such, gets a place on my list.

Black Snake Moan

Watching Samuel L. Jackson try and tame the nympho out of Christini Ricci by chaining her to a radiator as they both worked through their own relationship and life issues - how could I not like this?

And as much as I thought Justin Timberlake would ruin this movie - he was a nice surprise who didn't kill it after all.

Pulp Fiction, meet Black Snake Moan.


While some people thought this David Fincher movie was too long, or to slow, it makes wonder if they either couldn't sit through anything longer than 90 minutes, or they just needed more non-psychological action and suspense (see car chases) to keep them interested - because I don't think this could have been made any better than it was.

With stellar camera work, a tight script, and great performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and Chloë Sevigny - I thought this was a great lesson in how to craft an intricate and smart suspense thriller.


Who doesn't love a rat that cooks?

Easily one of the warmest feel good movies from 2007 where it made me hungry and smile all at the same time - and even though animated, I also thought it was a great addition to the "foodie" genre of films.

Hats off to Pixar and Disney for making a fun movie everyone can enjoy.

The Bourne Ultimatum

With a blockbuster first weekend and Matt Damon continuing to play Jason Bourne to perfection, this was the way you should end a series of films - and while the first will always be my favorite, I'd have to say that Ultimatum comes in a very close second.

I do have to admit though that while I'd like to think of the Bourne films as a trilogy, there's a part of me that hopes they decide to continue on with the storyline/characters, except with different actors in the future, 007 style.

American Gangster

Denzel Washington just has an intensity that he brings to the screen and the characters that he plays, even in non-action roles - and his handling of Frank Lucas taking over the Harlem heroin trade was no different.

Pair that with a great script and Russel Crowe - who I've grown to respect more as an actor - like everyone else, American Gangster had to make its way on my list because it was just too good to pass up.

Unstoppable Marriage

While the opposites attract theme has been done before - like I said - I'm kind of a sucker for these.

But really - seriously you can trust me - this was a cute and original movie where it had the perfect blend of romance, comedy, and drama, setting it apart from a lot of the other K movies in the same category.

At the same time it was also popstar Yoo Jin's big screen debut where she played a traditional country girl opposite Ha Suk Jin's city rich kid character - which ultimately helped its numbers at the box office where it was one of the top grossing movies of the year, even getting some comparisons to My Sassy Girl.

Secret Sunshine

If you're looking for a feel good movie, this really isn't it.

If you're looking for something to be tied in a nice neat bow, you won't get that either.

But if you want a heart wrenching drama filled with themes of love, loss, and faith - as well as see the film where Jeon Do-yeon has won seven awards for her role in it, including Best Actress at the 6th Annual Korea Film Festival, and Best Actress at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival (not including wins for Lee Chang-dong for Best Director and co-star Song Kang-ho for Best Actor) - this is the film for you.

Just remember - you were warned.


The second outing by the same team that made Shutter - while I didn't think was as good (because Shutter just gave me the chills) - Alone still didn't leave me disappointed.

Others agreed too as the movie about conjoined twins swept across the horror film festivals knocking down awards for Best Director, Best Actress and Best Picture.

If there's one thing I can say about the team of Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun from the two movies they've put out so far, it's that they know how to make you jump even if you know what's coming.

Dasepo Naughty Girls

I just got a chance to see this film so I had to update my list because it's one of the coolest flicks that I've seen this year and turns the coming of age story completely inside out and then does another 360 turn.

Starting out with a great music number the film's base follows a group of Korean high school kids getting ready to graduate from "Useless High" - and from there it becomes a little harder to describe.

From cross dressing "Big Sis" who befriends "Poverty Girl" (with poverty literally strapped to her back), to rich Anthony from Switzerland who's in love with Double Eyes who happens to be Cyclops's sister, to teachers who take it upon themselves to punish themselves for their students' ineptitude - Dasepo Naughty Girls is nothing at all like you'd expect - and I loved every minute of it.

Other films of 2007 worth mentioning which I haven't had a chance to see yet but I heard were worth the watch (some which are burning their way in the mail):

The Orphanage, Muoi: Legend of a Portrait, I am Legend, Juno, Femme Fatal, M, West 32nd, May 18, Sakuran, Triangle, The Machine Girl, Protege, Bolinao 52, I Just Didn't Do It, Owl and the Sparrow, Undoing, 300, Sukiyaki Western Django, Once, I'm Not There, I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, No Country for Old Men.