Posts tagged "Shu Qi"

The Assassin (Review)

The Assassin

aka 刺客聶隱娘 aka Nie yin niang
Assassin
2015
Written by Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Chu Tien-wen, Hsieh Hai-Meng, and Zhong Acheng
Based on a story by Pei Xing
Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Assassin
The Assassin is a great film that will bore the living crap out a whole bunch of people thinking they’re going to see something that it’s not. It’s one of those films that makes me feel like a bad movie review website guy because it should be a film I’m jazzed for, but I just don’t really have strong feelings for it. I’ve even seen some of director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s other work, thanks to a particularly well-stocked Blockbuster that had Millennium Mambo (great!) and Flowers of Shanghai (greater!). This was before I moved to an area with great independent video stores, and also way before movies became easy to find on the internet, but that’s a whole different topic! But that meant The Assassin should have been right up my alley. And yet, I never really connected with it.

The Assassin has beautiful cinematography, some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. If anything the cinematography is too beautiful, every shot of the landscape looks out of a storybook, it’s a wonder how anything was ever done in 9th century China as everywhere people looked they would just see beautiful landscapes and spend all their time admiring them. The plot is steeped in historical characters as the story is literally dropped in the middle of actual history. I don’t know if Shu Qi’s character actually existed, but much of the rest of the characters are actual historical figures. Historical spoiler alert, Tian Xing, the guy who is exiled, will eventually have Tian Ji’an’s job. If anything, The Assassin got me to read up more on Chinese history, something I hadn’t done as much as I would have liked before.
Assassin
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - July 5, 2016 at 10:52 am

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Links Complex

Hey, it’s about time I put up a new wall of links. In fact, I had so many that I had saved in various drafts I combined several together for this entry, and will get a separate entry that is links to cool posts on movie blogs later in the week. Learn from me and finish your articles! But let’s get on with the show…

**An awesome graphic about gender inequality in film. Especially relevant since this is the first time in forty years a female-lead movie was tops at the box office.

**Can it be December already so I can watch the new Jiang Wen movie? Gone with the Bullets (一步之遙) will be the followup to Let the Bullets Fly, which was spectacularly awesome. Jiang stars along with Ge You, Shu Qi, Wang Zhiwen, Wen Zhang, and Zhou Yun, and the plot involves a beauty pageant.

**In yet another short gets optioned into a feature film news, Beyond has been optioned by SyFy. Beyond was created by Raphael Rogers, who wrote and directed it on a budget of $1000. Beyond is about a woman who can teleport across space and time, and is the last of her family.

You can watch Beyond here, it is less than 9 minutes long.

**Everyone’s favorite mobile game that’s just the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark will hit the big screen, where hopefully it will be more than just 90 minutes of the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Temple Run becomes the latest of small scale games to get a movie option (preceded by Angry Birds), thanks to Warner Bros., who are increasingly desperate to find a new franchise to milk. Speaking of which, I need to rewatch Raiders of the Lost Ark….

**South African thriller iNumber Number will get an American remake by Universal. No word yet on if writer/director Donovan Marsh will be involved. iNumber Number is about an honest cop who goes bad after being cheated out of a promotion. Soon he has bigger problems when the gang he robs wants revenge.

**I am very excited about the Flawed Dogs animated movie, based on the books by Berkeley Breathed, specifically The Shocking Raid on Westminster.
Flawed Dogs

**Nickelodeon will bring us a film called Boogeymen, where a kid teams with the Boogeyman to investigate paranormal activity. I guess it’s sort of like that old Fred Savage movie Little Monsters, except they do Scooby-Doo stuff instead of just act silly. Boogeymen is based on a pitch from John Sullivan, and Howard Deutch will direct. Howard Deutch directed Pretty in Pink and several random sequels: The Odd Couple 2, Grumpier Old Men, and The Whole Ten Yards

**I’ve been arguing this for years, nice to see it getting some actual attention. It is possible you are made up of more than one genome, due to absorbing other genomes in the womb. It’s a type of chimerism that turns out to be a lot less rare than previously thought.

**From Pyongyang to Mars: Sci-fi, Genre, and Literary Value in North Korea

**Mel Gibson, Taylor Lautner and the 20-Year Effort to Make a ‘Stretch Armstrong’ Movie

**The Adventures of Pete and Pete is back (sort of) in podcast form!

**The MPAA, RIAA, and various ISPs have come up with their own “downloading is bad” school curriculum for California. A bit of advice: unless this crap is on the state exams, no teacher is going to bother. Though I wouldn’t put it past one of those “charter” schools after the MPAA gives them a sizable donation. Because they’re greedy cesspools.

**The awesome story of young Russian WWII heroine Zinaida Portnova

**Explore hundreds of old movie magazines for free thanks to Lantern/The Media History Digital Library! Say goodbye to your free time!

**After the Cinema of Disgust – A close reading of the renegade New Wave of Tamil Cinema

**Remember in The Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow had a gun?

**Air Bud is real!

**Jon Sorensen – Personal recollections and impressions of working on Alien

**The Great Lester proves even a dummy can go to jail!
The Great Lester

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

Categories: Movie News, Science   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

aka 大話西遊之三藏付魔 aka Xi you xiang mo pian

2013
Written by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi
Directed by Stephen Chow Sing-Chi and Derek Kwok Chi-Kin

Journey to the West Conquering the Demons
Stephen Chow makes his triumphant return behind the camera for Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons! While early trailers played up the comedic aspects, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons is thematically very different from what you would expect. It is mainly a horror comedy with romance elements. A sort of prequelized tale to the Journey to the West mythos, with the usual liberties and elements of true love and wackiness sprinkled in.

Stephen Chow spent most of the time since CJ7 running his own company (including work on the CJ7 cartoon) and randomly getting attached and unattached to various Hollywood projects. Even with this return to directing, Chow did not appear in front of the camera, despite rumors to the contrary. Those rumors have even started for the eventual sequel, of which I don’t think work has even begun. Whatever Stephen Chow wants to do is fine by me, because despite the flaws in Journey to the West 2013, it is still a marked improvement over a lot of the boring big budget garbage coming out of Chinese cinema lately.

Chow’s usage of actors with nonstandard physical appearances is still happening, the look of the background actors becoming as much of their role as their actions. There is even a sort of comment on the usual lack of problems with a woman getting hit by a man in Hong Kong comedies. Everyone freaks out when it looks like Shu Qi is about to get smacked by Monk Chen, and of course she then beats up the guy who almost hit her.
Journey to the West Conquering the Demons
Chow’s fantasy retake is unconnected to the prior A Chinese Odyssey films, and is stylistically very different. The depiction of Monkey King is more of a mean-spirited animal than a practical joker, but again this is before he became “reformed”. But don’t fret, the classic songs from the original Chow films still show up in unexpected ways.

The true main character is the Monk Chen Xuan-zang (more commonly known as Tripitaka), here just beginning his monkhood service as a demon hunter. Chen Xuan-zang follows a particular philosophy where there is good in everyone, even demons, and he doesn’t set out to kill the monsters. His travels cause him to repeatedly cross paths with professional demon hunter Duan, who ruthlessly stops her targets with magic flying rings she wears as a bracelet.

Soon their continual meetings is revealed to be more than just an accident, as Duan chases after Chen Xuan-zang in an attempt to get him to marry her so she can settle down. The Monk is adamant in his devotion to his faith, dismissing romance as “Lesser Love” and he is following “Greater Love”. But despite the problems, their paths continue to merge, leading to drama when the Monkey King is unleashed.

The different portrayals of Monkey King by Huang Bo and then some guy in makeup are a great example of building a complex character. Monkey King appears as a friendly, grateful guy who is convinced to help to try to regain some cosmic karma. But he’s far more than that, and soon the demeanor changes as his plan for freedom falls into place. Monkey King is then a wild animal in a costume, basically a cartoon character, who then has a big cartoon violence fight with several demon hunting champions, each with their own ridiculous powers. The kindly grey Huang Bo would not work in these action sequences, just as the monkey costume version would not be believable as a captured and tormented soul yearning for freedom.

Chow’s borrowing of other properties takes a turn to the lazy here when various scenes are lifted wholesale
most notably an action cinematic that is swiped directly from the Asura’s Wrath video games. Other characters are takes on some classic wuxia characters through history, including one called Almighty Foot, who is basically Sek Kin from The Furious Buddha’s Palm, right down to the identical foot growing sequence (even the music and foot growing sound effects are borrowed!) but with a bit of CGI enhancement. Heck, even the concept of a prequel-style movie with Tripitaka in a love story was done before (by Jeff Lau, in A Chinese Tall Tale!)
Journey to the West Conquering the Demons
All is forgiven thanks to Prince Important, who is Law Chi-Cheung doing a ridiculous impression of Stephen Chow. He plays him sickly and carted around by four “beauties” – older women who talk back at everything Prince Important tries to do to look cool.

Journey to the West‘s biggest problem is it needed an editor. The pacing in any Stephen Chow flick is always off, but here it also rather long. Certain comedic scenes could have been cut down without losing anything important, and making the film tighter as a whole. While not as original as I could have wanted, and prone to meandering off on random topics, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons was still a joy to watch, and hopefully helps give a needed kick to the seat of Chinese big budget cinema to bring more to the table than the blandness. Anything that ups the game is always welcome.
Journey to the West Conquering the Demons

Chen Xuan-zang/Tripitaka (Wen Zhang) – Newly minted demon hunter from a sect that believes that the demons are still good creatures at heart. After capturing the demons, he reads t them from The Demon Hunters Handbook – just a book of 300 Nursery Rhymes! His sifu believes in him and thinks he’s just missing that little something. During his missions he continually runs into Miss Duan. Cares more about the people he is saving than any of the other demon hunters we see in the film.
Miss Duan (Shu Qi) – Demon hunter and posesser of the Infinite Flying Ring, which she uses to destroy her unholy opponents and wears as a fashion statement. Duan keeps running into Monk Chen, falling for him despite his incistance that he isn’t into that lesser physical love stuff. The flying ring concept is borrowed from the Buddha’s Palm films.
Chen Xuan-zang’s Sifu (???) – Monk Chen’s master, who knows almost everything that is going on in the spiritual world even if he can’t keep things straight in the physical world. Spends most of his days srawing images on walls that tell the past and future.
KL Hog (??? and CGI) – Former good man turned revenge demon after his wife cheated on him with a beautiful man. Is a powerful demon and spends much of the film chasing the heroes.
Monkey King (Huang Bo) – Monkey King has been trapped in a cave for 500 years, but is always eager to please anyone who stops by asking for help. I’m sure the master trickster has nothing up his sleave….

Journey to the West Conquering the Demons
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 2, 2013 at 6:18 am

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Tai Chi Hero

Tai Chi Hero

aka 太極Ⅱ:英雄崛起 aka Tai Chi 2: The Hero Rises

2012
Written by Chang Chia-Lu and Cheng Hsiao-Tse
Directed by Stephen Fung Tak-Lun

Tai Chi Hero
How do I pee in this thing???

While Tai Chi Zero spent most of it’s running time setting up an Eastern tradition vs. Western modernism dichotomy that clashed with the very editing processes used to make Tai Chi Zero visually entertaining if nothing more than fluff, Tai Chi Hero tries a different tact. A method of uniting the different aspects of not only the film series, but of the culture clashes and personal clashes. The film is all about reconciliation, reunion, and combining into a greater whole. A balanced whole between the yin and yang, which is a part of the philosophy of tai chi.

Tai Chi Hero
Suddenly the movie goes all Forrest Gump!

There are still lots of plot lines to resolve, since the last film didn’t bother to finish anything up. And don’t expect everything to get resolved this time, either, though at least most of the problems are solved. At the last minute. Tai Chi Hero‘s attempts to have more of a story feels better, but conflicts with the flashy editing and choreography that was the only charm of the first part. So while being a better film on the whole, Tai Chi Hero manages to disappoint in the area that gained it fame, while not making enough up in the other aspects. Instead of the parts balancing together into a better whole, instead we just a big confusing mess, which defeats the whole message of the film! This is where Homer Simpson would say “D’oh!”

If you see one Tai Chi -ero movie, make it Hero, but seriously consider grabbing something else. Make it a balanced viewing where you also watch a decent film.

Tai Chi Hero
Rah rah, ah ah ahh
Roma, Roma ma ah
GaGa, Ou lala

Yang Lu Chan/The Freak (Jayden Yuan Xiao-Chao) – The hero from our last film is marrying into the Chen clan so all his tendon’s aren’t ripped out. And also to learn the kung fu he needs to survive. And to help save his home. And also because he loves Chen Yu Niang.
Chen Yu Niang (AngelaBaby) – Daughter of Master Chen Chang Xing, marries Yang Lu Chan despite not loving him nor wanting to be tied down with the responsibility, but Yang Lu Chan will prove himself over time. Helps him achieve balance.
Chen Chang Xing (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) – Master of the Chen clan and Chen Village. His strictness has caused family problems which are brought up again during a plot against Chen Village. Manages to play roles of both the wise elder and the antagonist of one of the minor heroes, before achieving redemption and thus, balance.
Chen Zai Yang (William Fung Shiu-Fung) – Oldest son of Chen Chang Xing, who was run out of town do to his preference of technology over martial arts. He returned in a complicated plot and eventually tries to redeem himself. His wife Jin Yun Er is a capable woman and partner despite being mute.
Fang Zi Jing (Eddie Peng Yu-Yan) – The villain returns with a complicated plot of revenge against Chen village involving working and bribing his way to getting an East India Company funded army to blow the crap out of the town. Which he does, and probably killed dozens of people, so I guess he sort of gets revenge even though he’s stopped.
Tai Chi Hero
More clockworks than A Clockwork Orange!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 1, 2013 at 6:09 am

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Tai Chi Zero

Tai Chi Zero

aka 太極1從零開始 aka Tai Chi 0

2012
Written by Chang Chia-Lu and Cheng Hsiao-Tse
Directed by Stephen Fung Tak-Lun

Tai Chi Zero
Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne are back, but darker and edgier!

A festive feast of visual excess that leaves you unsatisfied and full of regret, Tai Chi Zero is that mirage in the desert that looks good, but is nothing but sand when you get up close. The fun graphics and video game inspired editing are polish over a generic and predictable plot that doesn’t even do us the favor of trying to be creative. All the enthusiasm and cool effects are wasted, and that just makes me mad!

Now, I love cool looking visuals and razzmatazz editing. But you need something beneath that that’s just as creative. When the story is essentially something that has been done to death a thousand times, often more creatively, it’s just not exciting. The cast, the look, the effects, the wasted potential.

Tai Chi Zero
Chef Emeril Lagasse?

The main hero’s arc tale is set against a conflict that is essentially the modern West vs. the traditional East. Of course, tradition and kung fu wins out over technology and guns. One of the ways to get your film easily approved by Chinese censors is to make it about how awesome China is, so a lot like this is an easy pass. Creative films use that “China rules!” setting to say other things that censors are too dull to pick up on. Instead, Tai Chi Zero has characters saying how technology is bad in scenes with video game graphics and editing. It’s almost as if there is something else being said, but there isn’t. This expectation and disappointment exposes Tai Chi Zero as nothing more than a mannequin that can’t talk or move, but sure is wearing a pretty dress in the store display window. But it has encouraged me to go find some real people in real clothes, aka good movies. The East vs. West thing is even more hilarious because I can literally walk to the high school producer Daniel Wu went to school at here in America.

Tai Chi Zero
It’s the cover of one of those cheap shot on video horror films!

The action scenes I have little complaint with. The diagrams and arrows while the characters go through their stances were neat touches, and Sammo Hung and Andy Cheng Kai-Chung know what they’re doing to make things looks cool. The video game stylizing is incorporated into the choreography, which makes many scenes look like they are straight from a fighting arcade game. When each cast member first shows up, there are character cards for each of them as well as a brief one sentence bio. Besides looking cool, the biographies are good for beginners to Hong Kong/Chinese cinema, and good for those of us who don’t keep up with wushu stars who are making their first appearance in film.

Tai Chi Zero
SURRENDER HUMANS! TODAY THE MACHINES RISE!

Tai Chi Zero‘s tale is your normal hero’s arc story. Yang Lu Chan is The Freak, born with a super rare skin tag on his forehead which means he has super kung fu powers. Which is good, because he doesn’t have super brain powers. Discovered at a young age by a master, Yang Lu Chan is trained as a warrior and becomes his greatest fighter in the battles that come. But a chance encounter with Master Dong clues Yang Lu Chan in that his kung fu skills will prematurely kill him unless he learns negative kung fu, which is only taught in Chen Village, and then not to outsiders.

Yang Lu Chan/The Freak (Jayden Yuan Xiao-Chao) – A fictionalized version of real a tai chi master and teacher, Yuan Xiao-Chao is depicted as a martial arts prodigy with a growth on his forehead – the three crown blossoms – that gives him supernatural powers when smacked. It also will kill him if he doesn’t learn the style of kung fu taught in Chen Village. So he goes to learn. Is not very bright.
Chen Yu Niang (AngelaBaby) – Daughter of Master Chen, leader of the Chen School. She and her boyfriend Fang Zijing are trying to persuade Chen Village to accept the rail station that is planned to be built there. Until Fang Zijing goes bad and rejects her, then she tries to save her home from his plans.
The Old Labourer/Chen Chang Xing (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) – Gee, could this mysterious Yoda character secretly be Master Chen Chang Xing? Duh Doy! Of course, he’s just using Yang Lu Chan to save his village, but eventually is less manipulatively evil about it when the crap hits the fan. Is also a fictionalized version of a real person.
Fang Zijing (Eddie Peng Yu-Yan) – Chinese citizen educated overseas in England, who tries to bring modern technology back to the scoffing villagers. Is never accepted in Chen village and eventually rejects it in favor of not looking like a failure in front of the Emperor. Brings the giant steam machine to forcibly build the rails and reconnects with his overseas lover Claire Heathrow.
Claire Heathrow (Mandy Lieu) – Fang Zijing’s sweetheart from England who has come over as part of the East India company to lay tracks, and also to come with Fang.
Tai Chi Zero
I hate it when my steam-powered superweapon is infested with lady ninjas!t

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your 2013 Lunar New Year Comedies!

Shu Qi Chrissie Chau Journey to the West
It’s that time of the year, when China shuts down thanks to Chinese New Year! In between everyone going to see their family and every family going out for an incredibly expensive dinner, there is also the tradition of going to see ridiculous comedy films in the theaters! The Lunar New Year comedies are a source of some of the best comedy films from Hong Kong! And also some of the most terrible… But let’s not dwell on those failures, because they get buried beneath the sands of progress progress progress. And more films the next year! This time, we got a three-way battle plan, and the first time in two years that there isn’t an I Love Hong Kong/Alls Well Ends Well matchup at the box office. Because last year’s entries are buried beneath the sands of progress progress progress.

Journey to the West: Fell Monsters Chapter (西游·降魔篇) – The most anticipated of the three new years comedies, because it’s the long-awaited return of Stephen Chow to film! He’s directing this insane take on the famous Monkey King story, even if his appearance in front of the camera will be brief if he does it at all. In any event, I cannot wait, and will literally murder every single one of you to get to see this film. Yes, even you, Tiny Tim. Think I’ll spare you because of your gimpy leg? Think not!
We posted the trailer here

Hotel Deluxe (百星酒店) – Vincent Kok’s entry takes place at a fancy hotel, and like all good Lunar New Year comedies, a bajillion things are going on. The hotel hires scab employees, it’s being used as a film set, is being renovated, and is hosting a fake wedding. Yes, only those few plot lines! Hotel Deluxe stars Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Teresa Mo Sun-Kwan, Chapman To Man-Chat, Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Raymond Wong Pak-Ming, Lynn Hung Doi-Lam, Karena Ng Chin-Yu, and many more. Raymond Wong is producing. It opens February 7th
The trailer:

Better and Better (越來越好·村晚) – Zhang Yibai (with help from Xie Dong-Shen) bring us this Mainland funded comedy on February 10th. It features Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Wang Bao-Qiang, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Wu Gang, Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, Wang Luo-Dan, Xu Jing-Lei, Ni Da-Hong, and cameos from the likes of Karen Mok Man-Wai and Zhang Ziyi.
Trailer:

Who will win the ultimate showdown of ultimate 2013 Lunar New Year Destiny? Probably Stephen Chow unless that film sucks, than it’s anyone’s game!!!!!!! Enjoy the lots of pictures below.

via Roast Pork, Sina

And let’s not forget I Love Hong Kong 2013 (2013我爱香港之恭喜发财), like I almost did!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Categories: Movie News   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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