THE RAMEN GIRL (2008)
This deeply flawed little film is redeemed by the unflinching crankiness of ramen master Maezumi (Toshiyuki Nishida) and the rich atmospherics of Tokyo's back streets. In a distaff variation on the Karate Kid theme Abby (Brittany Murphy), a ditzy party girl, transforms painfully into a ramen master under Maezumi's begrudging tutelage. Her reward is a secure new identity and a new boyfriend (Sohee Park) who won't ditch her.
SHANGHAI KISS (2007)
Liam (Ken Leung) is a 20-something struggling with totally recognizable Asian American identity issues, as well as with issues about modern American life itself. The only female he enjoys spending time with is a white teen (Hayden Panettiere) who, despite a very special on-screen chemistry, is too young for a sexual relationship. The issues build entertainingly to a head after Liam inherits a house in Shanghai and meets a Chinese woman (Kelly Hu) who by all measures is a more suitable life partner. This unlikely film transcends all that we've come to expect in American films.
HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (2004)
This is that rarest of Hollywood creations: a full-budget movie starring a pair of young Asian American males. The fact that it happens to be a stoner roadtrip comedy makes it even more of a pleasant surprise. Harold (John Cho) is a strait-laced young investment banker. His roommate is an over-the-top party animal (Kal Penn) trying to put off med school. A fierce case of the munchies takes the pair on a zany and hilarious nightlong quest for White Castle hamburgers. In the process we see the pair confronting the Asian American demons of racial stereotypes and parental expectations.
BETTER LUCK TOMORROW (2003)
To add an edge to their model-minority lives four suburban Asian honor students start selling crib notes, then graduate to burglary, drugs and firearms. A rich, jaded fellow student (John Cho) hires them to stage a robbery of his parents' home. In their quest for ever-escalating thrills the teens commit the ultimate crime. This debut film by Justin Lin is hailed for revealing the intricate psycho-social double-whammy that complicates the lives of Asian American teens.
KISS OF THE DRAGON (2001)
Jet Li plays a taciturn Chinese police detective who comes to Paris on assignment and finds himself up against a corrupt French police chief who has forced a young American woman (Bridget Fonda) into white slavery. Some nice cross-cultural belly laughs and even a bit of passable bathos leaven the signature fight sequences. Extreme acupuncture techniques add a deadly new twist to the action.
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000)
Chow Yun-Fat, Michele Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi star in what may well be the first metaphysical swordplay film ever financed by Hollywood. This implausible martial-arts fantasy is the baby of Taiwanese American writer/director Ang Lee. Chow is a legendary swordsman, Yeoh is his unrequited love and a mean swordswoman in her own right. Zhang is a mischievous girl whose willful ways and spirited swordplay wreaks havoc with the legendary swordsman's retirement plans. The Academy-Award winner needs cutting but does offer the pleasure of watching pretty Asian faces emoting in atmospheric Chinese settings to a memorable Tan Dun soundtrack.
ROMEO MUST DIE (2000)
Hong Kong action star Jet Li plays the title role opposite stunning African American diva Aaliyah in this stylish, fast-paced gang-war saga set in San Francisco and Hong Kong. Li isn't much of a Romeo but makes up for it with his martial arts virtuosity. Russell Wong sets hearts a throbbing as the slickest, baddest gang enforcer in recent memory.
CHARLIE'S ANGELS (2000)
Lucy Liu teams up with Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore to recreate the camp of the 70s TV series. Liu gets to look sexy and kick stylized ass like one of the big girls without being subjected to the usual stereotypical sleaze.
SHANGHAI NOON (2000)
Jackie Chan transports his peculiar brand of martial arts buffoonery to the Old West as a royal retainer entrusted with the task of rescuing a kidnapped princess (Lucy Liu). He's aided and abetted by Owen Wilson who delivers the obligatory one-liners to Chan, the outlandish straight man.
SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS (1999)
Rick Yune plays a young Japanese American WWII veteran on trial for murdering his best friend. A smalltown newspaper editor (Ethan Hawke) is torn between his yearning for the accused's wife (Youki Kudoh) and his sense of honor.
THE CORRUPTOR (1999)
A Chinatown police detective (Chow Yun-Fat) is assigned a young partner (Mark Wahlberg) who turns out to be a bit too gungho and by-the-book for his comfort. Chow gets to display his trademark two-fisted gunplay and killer coolth but is forced to wallow in some of the seediest elements ever imputed to New York's Chinatown.
ANNA AND THE KING (1999)
This remake of The King and I lets Chow Yun-Fat bring a bit more dignity and sex appeal to the portrayal of the Thai King. It also puts the likely circumstances of Anna (Jodie Foster) into a more realistic historical and psychological perspective. Some lavish and loving cinematography, costumes and sets make for a visually stunning production.
THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS (1998)
Hong Kong heartthrob Chow Yun-Fat and an edgy Myra Sorvino shoot up bad guys with a lot of style, but the luscious cinematography is somewhat wasted on a flat script in which the chemistry between the two is never allowed to develop.
PICTURE BRIDE (1995)
Tamlyn Tomita is duped into coming to Hawaii but finds love and happiness anyways. Great scenery and interesting historical detail.
JUNGLE BOOK (1994)
Jason Scott Lee plays the native boy who wins the heart of the British colonel's daughter. Fun, with great jungle scenery and a healthy dose of action and suspense.
DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY (1993)
This is, in some ways, the movie left unmade by Bruce Lee. Raffaella DiLaurentiis, Dino's daughter, got the help of Lee's widow Linda (a caucasian woman who has since remarried) in recreating the story of Bruce's early struggles and rise to stardom. The hunky Jason Scott Lee becomes the legend well in a production with a big budget that probably surpasses those of all films starring the real Bruce Lee.
RISING SUN (1993)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa play the sexy playboy son of a Japanese tycoon embroiled in a scandal over the murder of an American girl inside his offices. Memorable scene: Tagawa eats sushi off a naked blond. Also stars Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes as the detectives on the murder case.
THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO (1993)
David Chung plays an old west Chinese miner rescued by Suzy Amis who's trying to make her way in a rugged man's world. The pair end up as lovers. Interesting, quirky.
HEAVEN & EARTH (1993)
A riveting Oliver Stone film in which Joan Chen covers her glamour-girl looks under tons of aging makeup to play the withered mother of a Vietnamese girl who marries an American soldier played by Tommy Lee Jones. A psychologically accurate portrayal of the Vietnam era.
THE WEDDING BANQUET (1993)
A Taiwanese immigrant marries a starving artist as cover for his gay relationship with a white man, setting up a comic showdown with nosey parents. A thorny subject is garnished for mass audiences by plenty of giggles and a delectable cast led by the dreamy Winston Chao.
THE LOVER (1991)
Hong Kong stud Anthony Leung plays the dissolute son of a Chinese merchant in pre-war Saigon. The film focuses on a torrid sexual affair with a French schoolgirl (played by an English schoolgirl) based on an autobiographical novel by acclaimed novelist Marguerite Duras. Steamy, highly atmospheric cinematography.
FORBIDDEN NIGHTS (1990)
Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Gilbert is an American teacher in Beijing who has an affir with a Chinese student played by Mortal Kombat star Robin Shou at around the time of the Tiannanmen Square Massacre.
EAT A BOWL OF TEA (1989)
Russell Wong plays a bumbling young Chinese American who goes to the ancestral village to marry. Rosalind Chao's the lucky girl. A bit slow but nice texture.
BLACK RAIN (1989)
Takakura Ken is an Osaka detective working with American counterpart Michael Douglas to crack a Yakuza counterfeiting operation. The edgy, charismatic Corean-Japanese actor playing the ambitious young gangster and drop-dead camera-and-lighting combinations make the movie one of the most stylish action films of the 90s.
THE LAST EMPEROR (1987)
Extravagant Bernardo Bertolucci costume epic in which John Lone plays the handsome, dissolute heir placed on the throne of Manchukuo, the Japanese puppet state; Joan Chen is his gorgeous junkie wife who gets her toes sucked by sexy Maggie Han in the film's most memorable scene
THE BIG BRAWL (1980)
Jackie Chan's 1978 effort at cracking the U.S. market. The movie was shot in the U.S. and contains some hilarious action sequences. Jackie also gets to bed a buxom Playboy model.
IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (1976)
A French-Japanese production set in Japan during World War II. Lovers escape by sinking ever more deeply into their own erotic universe. Explicit marathon sex scenes but tastefully done.
ENTER THE DRAGON (1972)
Bruce Lee's Warner Brothers martial arts classic. It made him the world's highest paid actor, but he never got to cash in before his mysterious death in 1973.
THE CHINESE CONNECTION (1972)
A low-budget Bruce Lee film shot in Hong Kong before he won U.S. acclaim. It offers some wicked Bruce Lee trademark fight scenes and some of his best comedic acting. It's set in Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion, so you get a free Chinese history lesson.
FISTS OF FURY (1971)
The first of the low-budget Hong Kong films that made Bruce Lee a household name in the U.S. Many action scenes are superior to those in later higher-budget efforts. It's Bruce at his most elemental, proving that his charisma stands alone, regardless of production values.
FLOWER DRUM SONG (1961)
The dazzling Nancy Kwan and the debonair James Shigeta in a pretty musical that claims the distinction of being the only major-studio film with an all-Asian cast.
A BRIDGE TO THE SUN (1960)
Baritone leading man James Shigeta wins Carroll Baker over his white rival, the first and possibly only such occurrence in American films.
HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (1959)
A strangely lonely love affair between a Japanese man and a French woman in post-war Hiroshima.
Starring SESSUE HAYAKAWA
First and greatest Asian American star:
THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI
FROM HELL TO ETERNITY
THREE CAME HOME
Featuring JAMES SHIGETA
Top Asian American leading man