My Friday screenings began with The Heavenly Kings, a quasi-mockumentary about the Hong Kong pop music scene. Cinematical's Jeffrey M. Anderson wrote a positive review when it played at the San Francisco Film Festival and the AFFD audience obviously enjoyed it. Personally, I thought the editing was choppy and the tone inconsistent. Still, Daniel Wu has come a long way from the late 90's, when he first started landing roles in Hong Kong after moving there from San Francisco. He was considered a pretty boy who didn't speak Cantonese very well, and some of his work was barely tolerable. He's blossomed into a fine actor and definitely shows promise and ambition in his directorial debut.
The Victim (from Thailand) looked gorgeous but its unimaginative use of horror movie conventions (loud! bang!!) and "twists" that were telegraphed far in advance quickly became tiresome. Happily, Dorm (also from Thailand) was much better. It's immediately captivating, relating the tale of a boy sent away to a private school where things go bump in the night. While the thrills and chills are not entirely original -- the premise is reminiscent of The Devil's Backbone -- the filmmakers do a great job of making you feel for the lost little kid. And there are just enough original touches to keep you off balance. Dorm was a pleasant surprise. Even better if you missed its festival showings: it's available on Region 1 DVD from Tartan Home Video. The Asian Film Festival of Dallas continues through Thursday, August 30.