Posts tagged "Xiong Xin-Xin"

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

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The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake

The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake

aka 競雄女俠秋瑾 aka Jian hu nu xia Qiu Jin

2011
Written by Erica Li Man and Checkley Sin Kwok-Lam
Directed by Herman Yau Lai-To

The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake
To say that The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake was a disappointment would be a sad understatement. The biopic of famed femme revolutionary Qiu Jin is about a remarkable woman in a dangerous time, but the entire narrative suffers through flashbacks and a lack of establishing just what the heck is going on. I am familiar with the history of Qiu Jin because she’s interesting, but I still had trouble following the historical who’s who of revolutionaries, both real and consolidated/fake. Unfocused and scattered, The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake jumps from revolutionary speak to scenes trying to depict how women got it tough to speeches about Chinese patriotism to battle scenes involving people the audience has never met. The zig-zagging prevents a good narrative that we can follow, and the flashbacks serve no purpose and don’t correspond to what is happening in the present. It’s like they read about the narrative technique in a book and decided to do it just because it sounded cool. Herman Yau Lai-To has directed some cult classics in years gone by, but his extreme nature seems to have been neutered for bigger paychecks, and along with that, any attempts to do things creatively.

The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake is a very patriotic film. Most discussions on the ills of society end up running into the narrative that China is lead by weaklings, so that’s why everything sucks. And at this time, China was essentially carved up by foreign powers, humiliated, and reform attempts had just ended in disaster. But instead of showing how the failures justify the repeated revolution attempts (there were literally dozens over the years before they took), we just jump to the next problem of women not being able to travel due to children, or Japan restricting what students can say, or Qiu Jin’s husband being an entitled douche.
The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake
Beyond the script not following a story arc that makes it easy to follow, the individual scenes themselves are messes at times. The most notable is near the end of the film where there is an attempted assassination of a local governor. The setup and subsequent fight seems to last forever, and it’s filled with unknown people fighting unknown people. Worst of all, we all know the conclusion, because it was in the beginning of the film! This is like worrying if Obi-Won Kenobi is in any trouble in a Star Wars prequel.

Qiu Jin (Crystal Huang Yi) – Independent female who won’t be caged. Uses her skills at the brush to fight for freedom with essays and poems. Eventually becomes allied with ever more armed revolutionaries and is caught up in the fervor, and captured for execution as a traitor.
Li Zongyue (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) – Qing official who is present during Qiu Jin’s trial and is an old family friend. Has to reluctantly go along with her downfall.
Xu Xilin (Dennis To Yue-Hong) – Historical revolutionary whose attempts to assassinate a local governor end with the government cracking down on his group with deadly force.

The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 27, 2012 at 12:39 am

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Vampire Warriors (Review)

Vampire Warriors


2010
Written and directed by Dennis Law Sau-Yiu

Sparkle THIS!

The announcements of a film starring Jiang Luxia and Chrissie Chau as chicks who fight vampires sounded like it would be the best movie ever. The reality is a far different creature, instead being a disappointing film with a few good moments. Jiang Luxia continues to be the best part of the films she shows up in, while Chrissie Chau continues to be…hot. She also barely participates in the action sequences. The action sequences should be what the film is built upon, but the tone of the sequences shift from practical fighting to insane flying wire fu where people get thrown through every wall in China, except for the one wall you would want to see someone thrown through.

The script itself feels more like a first draft than a full script. Many characters have little motivation, and even those given reasons for why they do stuff aren’t given much else to explain how they got to where they were. More of this complaint near the end of the review. It is obvious that Twilight inspired parts of the film, what with all the moping, the vampire family, and the vegetarian vampire angle. Someone needs to write a teenage girl hopping vampire romance novel quick!

Yank him until he goes full Anime!

When you think Chinese vampire films, you think of the hopping vampires, one-eyebrowed monks, awesome retro effects, lots of goofy scenes, and spooky/gross effects shots. Which is why when one comes out that features exclusively the western style vampires it is sort of interesting. There is no vampire hopping at all in this film, though there is a guy running around in the Qing style uniforms. We got no priests, and the effects shots are entirely digital and sparse. I don’t know if the complete lack of religious figures blasting the vampires is because the film is trying to appeal to more Western audiences who would be confused, or if there is some film guidelines from Mainland China that are against that stuff showing up. I do think the latter is why there were less gross/makeup effects that used to be common in these films.

Only mean people on the internet can make Chrissie Chau sad

Besides Jiang Luxia and Chrissie Chau, there are a bunch of other models in the cast – Haley C, Annie G, Dominic, Laying, Mia C, Suki, all of these are model/lang mo names. One expects the amount of Blue Steel in this movie will keep Pittsburgh in business for a bajillion years. I’m sure other girls with normal names in the credits are also models, it’s almost as if Dennis Law was trolling for dates. We also have two alumni from the original Mr. Vampire film, who are also the only people (besides one old lady) who look over 24 in the film. So please forgive the scant biographical information on some of these girls, as there isn’t any in English. As a final note, the film toys with some lesbian undertones between the main characters, which is sort of weird, especially since this film takes place in the all-too-common Hong Kong world where everyone is attractive 22 year old models who have never had a boyfriend.

Gymkata!

Ar (Jiang Lu-Xia) – Ar is a vampire hunter who spends all night killing vampires. Ar killed vampires with her father when she was young. She is also illiterate and has no money, as killing vampires doesn’t pay well. Jiang Lu-xia is rocking some awful extensions. Did one of the 1000 models on the movie sabotage her hair? See Jiang Luxia also be awesome in Coweb and Bad Blood.
Max (Chrissie Chau Sau-Na) – Vampire Max is Ar’s best friend and is a vegetarian vampire. Max’s favorite food is corgi, and definitely not obviously stuffed rabbit or ketchup. Chrissie Chau is the queen of the new breed of models showing up in Hong Kong called lang mo. Lang mo are models who aren’t fashion models but thanks to the internet get famous via the internet, and publish picture books of themselves wearing bikinis, something that is still shocking to many people in Hong Kong. There was even a big book fair recently where the lang mos like Chrissie Chau were banned and that caused much publicity and the models just showed up anyway as visitors. Chau is in an impressive number of recent films and will probably be in many more and inspire a whole new generation of lang mos.
Mung (Yuen Wah) – Mung is a Vampire Vampire, who consumes the blood of vampires to get powerful or something. Yuen Wah is one of two Mr. Vampire alums, and has been in a bajillion films, including My Kung Fu Sweetheart and Kung Fu Hustle.
Lung (Chin Siu-Ho) – Lung is the dad of the vampire family and is 1500 years old. He likes younger chicks, and lying to younger chicks. Chin Siu-Ho is another Mr. Vampire alum.
Rex (Rock Ji) – The brother in the family and the family member every sister has a crush on, even though Rex is too dense to pick up on it. Rock Ji is a male model. Shocking that another model is in this cast, I know.
Kar (DaDa Lo Chung-Chi) – The 800 year old vampire sister who is sick of living the unfeeling life. She gets her wish, though in the end maybe she didn’t want it so bad. DaDa Lo is a lang mo and also is in a pop group called Sugar Beez with A. Lin. The group appears to be based on the Twins, though most YouTube videos show them performing in front of only a few people at a time.
Lin (A. Lin) – The youngest member of the vampire family. That’s about it for what her character does in the film except almost drink too much water and die. Then she actually dies via Vampire Vampire. A. Lin is a model/singer noted for her resemblance to Gillian Chung. In the group Sugar Beez with DaDa Lo.
Menstruation really hits the spot!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 13, 2011 at 11:32 pm

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Bad Blood (Review)

Bad Blood

aka Mit moon

2010
Directed and written by Dennis Law Sau-Yiu

Bad Blood is a Hong Kong crime film that is about Triads and betrayal and having too many characters to give enough of them proper character development. And it isn’t very good. It is saved from being completely boring by one character going absolutely crazy and by Jiang Luxia beating up lots of dudes.

Granted, the only reason I even bothered to see this film was Jiang Luxia was in it, and from the trailer and description it made it look like she was going to be a deaf evil hit girl. And though she is deaf and dumb, she isn’t an evil hit girl and her character actual does stuff and is likeable, more than in Coweb, but no one still has bothered to use Jiang Luxia in a real capacity. Someone get of your duff and do it right, before I fly to Hong Kong and then quickly fly back home after having breathing problems in the bad air quality.

But Triad films are still the rage thanks to affairs of the infernal kind and dudes who are youthful and menacing. So for every HK Triad film you will sort of remember, there are many more that you will not. This might qualify as a film you will remember, but not because of the intriguing Triad relationships.

Audrey Lok (Bernice Liu Bik-Yi) – Audrey Lok is the female heir of a crime family who wants to go straight. Or does she? Beware, for when she cuts her hair she goes from normal to insane! No one will stand in her way. Bernice Liu’s picture was on the wall of a dim sum place I was eating at soon after I watched Bad Blood, so now she is following me and soon will try to tie me to an SUV and set me on fire as well. Too bad she has to wait in line for that chance!
Funky (Simon Yam Tat-Wah) – The default new leader of the gang who presides over most of the gang getting killed and himself killed. What a great leader! Simon Yam was on TarsTarkas.NET before with Fatal Termination and Future Cops.
Calf (Andy On Chi-Kit) –With a face deformed by a birthmark, this illegitimate son of a hooker is the heir to the crime family that is only barely tolerated by the rest of the family. Finds Dumby and takes care of her, but he is used by Audrey to get revenge on everyone. Andy On was Jet in Lethal Angels, so he’s got that going for him.
Dumby (Jiang Luxia) – Dumby is deaf and dumb, hence her name. Dumby talks via texting and sign language. She knows kung fu, having been trained by Calf who found her as an orphan on the streets. Spends her spare time doing amateur super-heroish work. Is not related to the Seven Dwarves or Gumby.
Brother Zen (Michael Chan Wai-Man) – An older gang member with grey hair and smart enough to figure out things despite being a lower-tier guy. But he gets killed regardless. That’s what you get for being named “Brother Zen”!
Kong (Xiong Xin-Xin) – Kong is a gang member who also runs a gym. That’s about it for his character, and then he’s killed. Xiong Xin-Xin has probably done action choreography in many films that you have seen. Or maybe not, because I don’t know what you’ve been watching. He also directed Coweb.
Hung (Ken Lo Wai-Kwong) – Another member of the gang who does stuff and then gets killed. You gotta love characterization like that! Ken Lo has been an HK actor for decades, and has made appearances on TarsTarkas.NET in Future Cops and Nobody’s Perfect.


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm

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Coweb (Review)

Coweb

aka Zhang wu shuang

2009
Directed by Xiong Xin Xin

Coweb is part of several films that showed up around the same time involving a lone female fighter beating the tar out of lots and lots of people. Others include Chocolate, High-Kick Girl, and Fighter. So of course TarsTarkas.NET was paying attention, because we are all about girl power. Or at least

Jiang Luxia is the Chinese Nation-wide Wushu Champion in Shaolin quan. She has a host of other sports accolade and is the Chief Trainer on the Practical Ladies Self-Defense program on CCTV.com. Jiange Luxia is also an expert in Martial Arts Repertoire, Practical Self-Defense, Qiqong, Taijiquan and Crossbow techniques. First showed up on the scene after she started posting online shorts of herself doing wushu moves in 2007 under the name Mao Er Bao Bei (translates as “Cat-Eared Baby.”) I think this is the link to her video blogs, but to get to the older videos you have to go a few pages back because there are a lot of Coweb shorts before that. She was also on a show hosted by Jackie Chan to find new kung fu stars. What is weird is her videos show her being full of energy and smiling and having a positive attitude, but Coweb keeps her in a somber tone the entire film. Completely drains her personality. That is one of several mistakes that hurt Coweb, however, Jiang Luxia is beyond awesome and will be a big star (assuming she doesn’t get horribly injured.)

Coweb was rumored to have a cameo by Edison Chen (fresh of his sex photo scandal) but the mainland DVD version I watched did not have Edison Chen in it at all. I was disappointed because I wanted to see him get beat up, but maybe Mainland China cut him out and he will still show up if this ever gets released in Hong Kong. As mentioned, the only way this film has been released outside of a few festivals is on a Mainland China DVD, dubbed in Mandarin with no subs. That’s not entirely accurate, there are Chinese subtitles, which were ran through an auto-translator thanks to the magic of the internet. Thus, incredibly confusing English subtitles played while I watched this, but I just ignored them (I left them on some of the screencaps for humor’s sake)

Coweb is the directorial debut of Xiong Xin Xin (aka Hung Yan-Yan), who is an action choreographer and stunt double, who also became an actor just to show off his wushu acrobatic moves.

Nie Yi Yi (Jiang Luxia) – Nie Yi Yi is a wushu instructor and mall security guard getting over the death of her father, who becomes a bodyguard for a private businessman’s wife, which then leads to a kidnapping trouble. Nie Yi Yi then beats up everyone everywhere, because they all deserve it. Nie Yi Yi translates as Clinging according to the terrible subs.
Chung Tin (Sam Lee Chan-Sam) – Nie Yi Yi’s childhood friend who recruits her to be a bodyguard. There is more to Chung than meets the eye, but he is not a robot. Sam Lee is one of the “Gen-X” HK actors, most of which were actually in the HK movie Gen-X Cops.
Ho Kwun (Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai) – Ho Kwun is a debonair tycoon who hires Yi Yi to watch over his wife, then is kidnapped along with the wife and becomes the object of rescue.
Susan (Peggy Tseng Pei-Yu) – Susan is the wife of Ho Kwun and is the woman Yi Yi was hired to protect. Yi Yi does such a good job Susan is kidnapped almost immediately. Nobody knows anything about Peggy Tseng Pei-Yu.
Song Li Shan (Kane Kosugi) – The final opponent of Yi Yi and the business partner of Ho Kwun who is originally blamed for the kidnappings. Kane Kosugi is probably the most famous in th US for going all Return of the Jedi in Godzilla: Final Wars and is the son of Sho Kosugi. He was previously on TarsTarkas.NET in DOA: Dead or Alive.


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - August 5, 2009 at 2:15 pm

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