Posts tagged "Steven Fung Min-Hang"

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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Mr. and Mrs. Incredible (Review)

Mr. and Mrs. Incredible

aka San kei hap lui aka 神奇俠侶

2011
Directed by Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu
Written by Steven Fung Min-Hang, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, and Chan Po-Chun


I’ll be blunt – Mr. and Mrs. Incredible is the best film I’ve seen out of Hong Kong in 2011 so far. That’s either great praise for Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, or a scathing indictment of this year’s crop of movies. It’s both, actually! Mr. and Mrs. Incredible is less of an action fest superhero movie, and more of a film about couples and conflicts that arise in a relationship that just happens to be between two superbeings. And it’s pretty damn good. A costumed period piece that takes queues from The Incredibles and several other super hero in real world pictures, we join Gazer Warrior and Aroma Warrior ten years into retirement as Flint and Rouge, living out their lives in a peaceful village in the middle of nowhere. But fate has decreed that the two superheroes will once again don their uniforms.

The real world super hero subgenre has grown significantly as of late, with storytellers finding the same thing Marvel did in the 1960s, that it is much more interesting to have actual people be the super heroes vs. mythological perfect beings with no problems ever. Movies like Watchmen, Super, and Defendor show real people with real problems donning capes and punching people. Now, the leads of Mr. and Mrs. Incredible don’t have deep psychological problems, emotional abuse issues, anger management problems, delusions, or revenge fantasies brought about by murdered parents. Their problems are much the same as most real couples. Part of Mr. and Mrs. Incredible‘s strength is that it sounds like familiar arguments even as it is surrounded by super hero antics and wacky comedy.

Flint (Louis Koo Tin-Lok) – The former Gazer Warrior has been retired for ten years and now serves as the head of the guard at a small peaceful village. His eyesight is starting to go, and he’s one of the few people in town who can read. But suddenly his peaceful village gets a lot fo visitors…Louis Koo is in like a bajillion movies, even getting injured in a motorcycle accident hasn’t slowed him down, they just had to work his action films around his injury.
Rouge (Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu) – The former Aroma Warrior is also retired and living with her husband, running a restaurant in town. Her days are spent listening to the local gossiping women and hating cockroaches. Sandra Ng is also in The Eight Hilarious Gods and Beauty on Duty.
Gazer Warrior (Louis Koo Tin-Lok) – Gazer Warrior sports laser-beams from his eyes, super sight, super strength, invulnerability, super speed, and a costume fit for a dark knight.
Aroma Warrior (Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu) – Aroma Warrior sports the Aroma Palm, super strength, invulnerability, super speed, and being hot.
Phoenix Bleu (Li Qin) – a martial arts apprentice come to watch the tournament. Takes a shine to Flint due to her love of Gazer Warrior. Gets unwanted attention from spoiled kid King Kong.
Grandmaster Blanc (Wang Bo-Chieh) – The organizer of event who looks creepy and is obviously up to no good. I’m on to you, Blanc! Blanc, like your moral compass! White, because you are empty, empty of color, empty of soul! Your body cold as ice, because you’re a sparkle vampire written by some Mormon chick in some terrible novels! Oh, yes, I know all about you, Blanc!


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Categories: Good, Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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