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The Assassin (2015)
8/10
A film that definitely stands out from the rest, in a good way.
11 February 2018
"The Assassin" is much better than most of the cliché, mindless, action movies produced in China. Of course, there are great films made in China such as John Woo's "Hard Boiled", "The Killer", and "Red Cliff Pt. 1 and 2", and Wong Kar Wai's "The Grandmaster"; these are just a few.

One way that it stands out greatly is the cinematography. Every scene from start to finish is a visual ecstasy that enchants the audience, making them anxiously wait for a new surprisingly beautiful shot. The contrast is sharp but not in the repelling way a YouTube amateur action film is; it captures the light and dark perfectly. Hsiao-Hsen Hou shows her proficiency in contrast from the very beginning which is in black and white. The light and dark were balanced and gave depth to the scene.

When the movie was displayed in full color, I was blown away. She adhered to the color wheel to combine opposing colors in the frame, adding color to the contoured contrast and creating a beautiful shot.

The composition of the shots were also great. Hou used the set design and camera positioning to lead the audience's eye to the subject. I also appreciated the masterful long takes. A big problem with most movies is they cut too soon. A movie doesn't have to be like "Russian Ark" where the entire film is one take. If the camera stays where it is long enough, the audience will be able to find meaning from what the characters are feeling and what their surrounding environment is like; if that perspective changes, we start all over.

This ties in with some complaints that "The Assassin" moves too slowly. There were times that I got tired, but I realized that maybe there's more to this scene where not a single character talks. Maybe if I observe the characters and environment carefully, I can get my own meaning out of it.

The acting was great, and the characters were easy to understand even when they weren't speaking to each other. Also the set design was superb. All shots were realistic and on-site, the natural landscapes and man-made structures were magnificent, and it really immersed me into the film.

"The Assassin"'s writing is unconventional but well done, where much of the communication is through reading emotions. The characters don't say what they mean a lot of the time, but they communicate the truth from their unrelenting emotions caused by trying to deal with moral conflicts and dilemmas that they can't show to society. Many conflicts don't get resolved, characters are bound by societal demands, and the pain stays.

One critique I can think of for this film is parts of the score. There was a fight scene that had a soundtrack that I thought was ill-fitting. It's probably because its composition was too complex for the time period and was paired with indigenous instruments meant for a simplistic, East Asian pace of music. This is only a minor concern and I didn't subtract an entire star just for this criticism.

Overall it was a great movie: unconventional, experimental, beautiful, and emotionally realistic; "The Assassin" definitely stands out from others in the East Asian cinema, in the best way.
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Naked Among Wolves (2015 TV Movie)
8/10
Emotionally Captivating
27 January 2018
Everything about this movie was great. The acting was superb, the cinematography was stark but beautiful, the music enhances the mood, and it was well directed with an amazing production quality.

To elaborate on some of the other reviews I saw from this title, I too was also more emotionally captivated than usual with this movie. Most movies don't disturb me but this film immerses you in the fear and absolute horror Holocaust victims faced. This film evokes emotion not just by showing the depravity but also the tender love and friendship the main characters share. They do everything for each other. Any emotion they feel is beautifully juxtaposed on the audience.

Naked Among Wolves also has a well-crafted plot and story, the acting is realistic and not overdone, and it was visually stunning with great cinematography. All of these amazingly done features of this movie set the mood and provides a glimpse into the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Watch this movie.
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Seven Samurai (1954)
10/10
Amazing Film
2 January 2018
I'm not too good at writing reviews, but I do know that this film is amazing. Toshiro Mifune's acting as Kikuchiyo is very well done and his character development was groundbreaking for the time. Akira Kurosawa executes shots perfectly. Not only is the cinematography visually appealing but it also accentuates the already amazing storytelling done by the actors and set.

Aside from more technical features of this film, it never ceases to entertain. I have seen this movie several times and the first time I worried it would be hard to sit through because classics tend to be slower over long periods of time. But Kurosawa gets right to the point and every scene has conflict and story.

This movie is epic, redeeming, sometimes funny, and tragic at times. It'll hijack your emotions and will never bore you. I cannot emphasize any further how great this film is and how important it is for any cinephile to watch. A definite 10/10; Seven Samurai will go down in history.
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