Crystal Hunt (1991) Review

"Crystal Hunt" American DVD Cover

“Crystal Hunt” American DVD Cover

Director: Hsu Hsia
Producer: Chui Fat
Cast: Donnie Yen Chi Tan, Carrie Ng Kar Lai, Ken Lo Hui Kwong, Sibelle Hu Hui Zhong, Fujimi Nadeki, John Salvitti, Tin Ching, William Ho Ka Kui, Hsu Hsia, Chu Tiet Wo, Chui Fat, Leung Kar Yan, Gordon Liu Chia Hui
Running Time: 90 min.

By Tyler

After some great work with Yuen Woo Ping in films like Tiger Cage and Iron Monkey, there was a period in which Donnie Yen ventured into the super low-budget films before going into TV. During this period he made Holy Virgin vs. Evil Dead, a campy category III film, and Cheetah on Fire, a sister film of Crystal Hunt (they both contain a similar cast).

Crystal Hunt is the superior of the three, but that isn’t saying much. Crystal Hunt was a troubled project. The editing, storyline and the continuity is very bad. Also, a stuntman was severely injured during a bike stunt (during the credits they do a Jackie Chan-style bloopers thing). All these problems do not distract from the grueling fight scenes, and some pretty funny comedy. The fight scenes are choreographed great, and you can see that Donnie used a lot of Escrimina and Wushu is the film.

The plot is incredibly horrible and has an equally horrible subplot (Carrie Ng and Ken Lo looking for the crystal to cure her father’s illness). The opening scene has nothing to do with the overall film (look for a cameo by Gordon Liu), just fast foward to the fight scenes.

GAME OVER!

Tyler’s Rating: 7/10

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Legend of the Wolf | aka The New Big Boss (1997) Review

"Legend of the Wolf" Japanese DVD Cover

"Legend of the Wolf" Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Donnie Yen
Producer: Donnie Yen
Cast: Donnie Yen, Dayo Wong, Carman Lee, Ben Lam Kwok Bun, Edmond Leung, Mak Wai Cheung, Bonnie Lai, Tony Tam, Kenji Tanigaki, Mandy Chan Chi Man, Hoh Choi Chow
Running Time: 90 min.

By Joe909

Ah, Donnie Yen: the Dolph Lundgren of Hong Kong cinema. The Boston-bred brat finally proves himself with this one, an old-school type kung-fu flick with a modern edge. Donnie goes the full mile, producing, directing, and starring in this often-hated, sometimes-liked underground classic.

I like this movie a lot. The plot’s standard, the directing is passable, the budget obviously wasn’t very high, and even the “artistic” way in which the movie unfolds, via incongrous flashbacks within flashbacks, doesn’t really help things. But all that aside, you still have a fairly decent movie with excellent action. Each kung-fu battle is good enough to be the “end fight” in any other martial arts film. The shots are sometimes too close or too blurry, and the editing is as jarring as MTV’s, but it still looks great.

Donnie pulls a “Van Damme” here, with plenty shots of himself bare-chested and flexing. But I’m sure that’s just for the ladies, right, Donnie? Anyway, he pulls off some impressive martial arts. He starts the film doing a basic movie style, but as the film progresses he adopts what seems to be a jeet kune do approach, even mimicking Bruce Lee’s war cries. Perhaps this is why Legend of the Wolf is called “The New Big Boss” in parts of the UK.

Just about every fight in this movie is a highlight, but the best is the sequence that begins with Donnie chasing through a forest after his enemies, and culminates in him taking on his main rival beside a waterfall. The running fight in the forest is one of the best Hong Kong action sequences ever, with Donnie taking on legions of henchmen, a guy with a revolver, and a guy who fights with claws. The sequence proves that there’s still some amazing things going on in Hong Kong cinema.

As an aside, the dvd release is terrible; it’s full-frame with no menu selections or extras. Plus the subs are burned into the print, just like they were back in the pre-dvd days. At least the chapters are numbered, so you can skip from fight to fight, cutting out the extraneous moments of “plot advancement” and getting right to the good stuff.

Joe909’s Rating: 8.5/10


By Numskull

I had a dozen reasons to dislike this movie, but I liked it anyway. It’s a spiffy little tale of blood and cheese directed by Donnie Yen, whose talent is more evident here than in the bland Ballistic Kiss (the film with the greatest literal title of all time: “Kill Some People Dance A Little”).

Donnie Yen is Fung Man-hin, an amnesiac with (surprise) tremendous fighting prowess. He wanders around seeking out temples…don’t ask why…and befriends a local rogue named Wai (Chi Wah Wong). Violence seems to follow in his footsteps as marauders plague him incessantly…but for what reason, he does not know. This story takes place shortly after World War II, with somewhat nonsensical modern-day segments presenting it in the past tense.

The film opens with an MTV-style fight; dark and ridiculously fast with way too many cuts. This isn’t necessarily just bad film making on Yen’s part, though. At this point, the viewer isn’t SUPPOSED to know what the hell is going on.

Actually, ALL of the fights in this movie are sped up to some degree, unless you count Wai’s slow motion scuffle with some other villagers during the old woman’s prayer (“Yes! Kick him in the dick!”). In a lesser film, this would piss me off, but Legend of the Wolf has some not-quite-definable, cheese-flavored X-factor that makes you just go along with it. Maybe it’s Chi Wah Wong’s charismatic performance. Maybe it’s the catchy and memorable musical score. Maybe it’s the fact that almost every scene is shot in either black and blue (like many modern HK films) or in various shades of orange. But it sure as hell isn’t the crappy romantic element with Man-hin’s old sperm receptacle Wai-yee (Carman Lee) filling him in on the details of their past together and trying to turn unrequited love into…uh, regular love. Why must they always ruin perfectly serviceable stories by adding this garbage? I swear, when I rule the world every hack screenwriter out there is gonna change their tune on this subject or else be relegated to careers in the field of picking the scabs off of STD-afflicted porn stars’ genitals.

If undercranking annoys you regardless of its extent or of the quality of the actual fighting, perhaps the sheer amount of combat here will at least partially redeem the film in your eyes. Wither goest Donnie Yen, so cometh carnage. Wai gets in on some of the action, too; the scene where he valiantly tries to defend the villagers from slaughter-happy bandits is a highlight. Man-hin’s numerous duels are also very enjoyable.

I had my doubts, but I was pleasantly surprised. A good time killer.

Numskull’s Rating: 7/10


By Vic Nguyen

Donnie Yen embarks on his directorial debut with this low-budget martial arts actioner that is low on brains and high on action.Yen stars as the legendary Wolf, a martial artist whose exploits are recounted through a series of flashbacks peppered throughout the duration of this film. The screenplay is one big cliche; the main characters are uninteresting, the villains are tedious and unmotivated, and it also uses the old amnesia subplot which has been done to death. Even the performances are below par, which is a given considering the quality of the script. Yet despite these obvious shortcomings, it’s the action sequences that makes this film worthwhile. They are plentiful (there are no less than 4 big bouts), well choreographed, highly stylized (eg. Tsui Hark’s The Blade), and do a good job showcasing Yen’s fabulous bootwork. All in all, a flawed, but entertaining piece that is worth the rental for the martial arts alone.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 5.5/10

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Gymkata (1985) Review

"Gymkata" American Theatrical Poster

"Gymkata" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Robert Clouse
Writer: Dan Tyler Moore, Charles Robert Carnes
Producer: Fred Weintraub
Cast: Kurt Thomas, Tetchie Agbayani, Richard Norton, Edward Bell, John Gilbert Barrett, Conan Lee, Bob Schott, Buck Kartalian
Running Time: 90 min.

By American Ninja Man

I’m not sure how the meeting went for these coke sniffing, green lighters; but we do know that someway, somehow, someone figured that the next heir to the Bruce Lee throne would be none other than Kurt Thomas.

Robert Clouse is in my heart and I can smell the stink, and when I watch his movies I can only curse his name. (Yeah, I ripped off Six Pence None The Richer’s Breathe Your Name to insult Clouse, wanna make somethin of it!)

Clouse had already given us the equally dreadful Big Brawl (easily Jackie Chan’s worst film next to The Protector); but because some dumbasses like it, Clouse was given the opportunity to give us this little classic.

The movie starts with some old guy, who’s supposed to be the best the U.S has, probably because American Ninja and Chuck Norris were booked. Anyway, the main bad guy is Richard Norton, who didn’t kill Mary Louise Weller off in Forced Vengeance, but does sport a giant mullet, hence, that’s where this aussie’s talent lies. He kills the old schmuck as he cheats at the game and…voila! We are introduced to our gymnast hero, Kurt fucking Thomas!

I have to get this off my chest, I’m a former kickboxing champ. State gold medalist in 1998 and 1999 and I must admit that this movie was so bad and such a disgrace – not only to legit martial artists like Bruce Lee, Jet Li and the Bruce Li’s of the world – but a personal disgrace to me.

So to score some honor for the genre of martial arts, I went to a gymnastics class, kicked the asses of all the male gymnasts for sheer principle and had an orgy with the female gymnasts. Those weenies tried to claim assault for me giving them a good kicking (no complaints from the women though, cause the ninja orgy caused them to score perfect 10s on their next acrobatic challanges.), but once the cops heard my story, they cleared it as justifiable.

As happy as it should’ve made me, this didn’t make me feel much better until I heard Chuck Norris was so disgusted that he drove to L.A (with a diaper, because we all know that pit stops are for pussies, right on Lisa Nowak!) and raped Kurt Thomas repeatedly. (why else does Thomas appear in Chuck Norris’ Total Gym informercials? Not for money and certainly not because it works but out of fear that he take a workout in his ass.)

Unfortunately, this still didn’t make me feel much better because the movie was begging me to believe that against ninjas the best man for the job would be a gymnast.

A gymnast? A fucking gymnast? What am I dreaming? I can just picture MGM discussing the topic “Hmmm, let’s see here, I don’t like the script for Amadeus but I do feel somewhat intrigued over the aspect of a gymnast who kicks ass to save the world.” It’s no secret that Gymkata turned out as terrible as one would expect but did we really need the one-two punch of not only a gymnast hero, but also having it directed by Robert Clouse? Well, suffice to say I walloped myself in the head with a tire iron when I witnessed Kurt Thomas do backflips and mimic dialog because the princess refused to speak to him. Just a tip, it could be the mullet. Also, our dumb ass hero is only a couple inches taller than a midget and that mullet makes him look, well, not very manly. He also tries to say hilarious one-liners despite the fact that “I know, I’ll out sleep them!”, “Keep your hardware in your pants” is not the making of an action hero.

Oh, but Richard Norton is in this clunker, he’s the main bad guy and he has a showdown with Kurt Thomas and this is where I finally felt sorry for the fucker, not because he was in this movie; Norton has always been a quality source of shitty movies so it’s hard to feel sorry for him. I mean his movie Kick Fighter is awful beyond compare.

I felt sorry for him because he gets to get his ass whumped by what is easily the wussiest protagonist that would be the wussiest until Lorenzo Lamas joined the scene in 1990’s suckfest known as Final Impact. Still, as lame as Thomas is, I admit that I was often fascinated by the sheer ambition of this production, and by that I mean how many bad ideas are contained. A princess who goes all the way with our gymnast hero on the first date. Check. A completely unnecessary action sequence for no reason other to pad out running time. Check. A hero who has to play a game, all so the U.S Government can place a satelite before the Russians. Check. A hero very low on charisma. Check. A hero who relies on sheer chance to prevail in tough situations. Check. A king who shouts “Yakmallah!” and at least a 100 mullets. Check, Check, Check!

By the way, the sheer luck factor means that during the action sequences are moronic gymnast star finds a bar, does various back flips and even finds a pommel horse to beat up people on. Holy crap this movie is terrible. With all the directing style of a substandard porno knock off of Enter The Dragon (which I imagine would be called, “My Dragon Enters Uou”). But it’s from Robert Clouse, so what do you expect? Coherence, a narrative structure, decent action sequences and some okay acting? Well, it’s about a gymnast who kicks ass only because the bad guys are dumb enough to leave pommel horses around.

So who is the one to blame? The moron who thought of the idea? The moron who thought to cast Kurt Thomas? The moron who hired Robert Clouse? The moron who directed this? And of course, the moron who watches this? In other words, there’s enough blame to go around, and hey even Milli Vanilli doesn’t blame the rain on Gymkata. Thats how bad this movie is.

Laughable. Ridiculous. Stupid. Incompetent and of course, hilarious.

American Ninja Man’s Rating: 1/10

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Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) Review

"Universal Soldier: Regeneration" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Universal Soldier: Regeneration" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Universal Solider 3: A New Beginning
Director: John Hyams
Writer: Victor Ostrovsky
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Andrei Arlovski, Zahary Baharov, Garry Cooper, Mike Pyle, Corey Johnson, Emily Joyce, Aki Avni, Kerry Shale, Kristopher Van Varenberg, Violeta Markovska, Yonko Dimitrov, Jon Foo
Running Time: 97 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

A group of terrorists kidnap the Russian prime minister’s children, demanding the release of their comrades. In addition, they have taken over a nuclear power plant and threaten to detonate it if their demands are not met. Thanks to a rogue scientist – and co-founder of the UniSol experiment – the terrorists possess another secret weapon: a Next-Generation UniSol (Andrei Arlovski), that is programmed to protect the plant and kill anything that comes near it.

After a number of failed attempts to seize the plant and rescue the children, U.S. forces finally call Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) into action, an older UniSol model. However, another surprise lives within the plant… a cloned version of Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), Luc’s former enemy.

I haven’t seen the original Universal Soldier since it came out in 1992, but I remember it being decent (mind you, as a kid living in the 90’s, every action movie was decent). Its sequel, Universal Soldier: The Return (1999), was a major disappointment. As far as those other wacky, unofficial, made-for-TV sequels – Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms (1998) and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business (1998) – never seen them, probably never will.

This brings us to John Hyams’ Universal Soldier: Regeneration, which is simply one of the best sequels ever made. I’m one of those guys who is still keeping my fingers crossed for a full blown Van Damme comeback (a la Mickey Rourke). I doubt it’ll ever happen in a big way, but the positive reception he received for his flawless performance in JCVD (2008) was close enough.

Much respect to director John Hyams (son of distinguished filmmaker, Peter Hyams, see below). There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s on his way to do even bigger and better projects in the future. His skill is a HUGE improvement over what we expect from your typical Van Damme popcorn action flick.

So why is this Universal Soldier: Regeneration so good?

The Action: Some of this stuff is close to what you’d expect to see in a Hollywood Blockbuster (come ot think of it, this was planned for a theatrical release, but went straight-to-DVD, last minute). There’s that certain cinematic something about the way the action is filmed, which makes sense, since the cinematographer is Peter Hyams, who is best known for directing 1984’s 2010 (the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), as well as directing Van Damme in Time Cop (1994) and Sudden Death (1995). Martial arts fans rejoice: the fight scenes are thorough, well-staged and definitely satisfying. If you’re a fan of long shots, there’s a hallway bit you’ll get a kick out of.

The Violence: Possibly the most brutal and bloody film Van Damme has ever appeared in. The gore is all over the place. On the camera. Splashed against walls. Spraying on peoples’ faces. We also have pipes being chugged through chests. Heads exploding. A lot of slicing and dicing. VERY fulfilling.

The Tone: There’s a very moody feel to it. In fact, there’s barely any contrast or color, which gives it personality. Also, Van Damme’s character isn’t exactly your typical hero. He’s a troubled soul who has mental problems (I mean, he was brought back from the dead, ya know?) and he uncontrollably attacks innocent, random people.

The Casting: It’s good to see Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren working side by side again. And the addition of former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, is an excellent touch. Unlike professional wrestler Bill Goldberg’s performance in Universal Soldier: The Return, Andrei has some depth and charisma to offer. Awesome job.

The Story: Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Oscar worthy, but it is interesting enough to give it some credit. The problem with most sequels is they just throw together scenario around our returning characters without any real thinking. You can tell that the writer carefully mapped this one out. I LOVE the final scene before the credits roll.

Keep in mind that Van Damme doesn’t appear until later in the film. Same goes for Dolph Lundgren, who has a small, but meaningful role. Their lack of screen time works with the flow of the movie’s structure. If you’re still worried, mark my word, this IS a Van Damme movie.

Seriously, check this one out.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8/10

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Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) Review

"Kill Bill Vol. 2" American Theatrical Poster

"Kill Bill Vol. 2" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Lucy Lui, Vivica Fox, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, Bo Svenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Helen Kim, Michael Jai White (cut)

By Dave Bell

I think most people are going to compare Vol. I and Vol. II and they shouldn’t. These are two totally different movies, each touching on the same subject, from different points of view. I think THAT’S why the film was split in half, not because of length. I think it was planned to be split all along, if it was (and I’m not sure it was because that would be one weird movie – even with an intermission) I think it would have detracted from both halves impact.

QT demonstrated in Vol. I that he could make a movie minus his brilliant dialogue (except for Sonny Chiba, who was amazing!). In Vol. II he shows us that he can make a movie without stilted dialogue (Carradine was every bit as good as Chiba, if not better).

The people talked, they communicated not gave speeches, which is my only real problem with QT. His characters tend to be addressing each other. Which is annoying unless what they’re saying is compelling, which it almost always is. But this time the characters spoke as if they were actually speaking WITH each other. Not AT each other.

The only down side, Uma Thurman. She really doesn’t deliver her dialogue naturally. Then again, most of her dialogue is the silly “We have unfinished business” lines, so who can blame her. She did go through an emotional roller coaster in this thing, so I call it a wash.

My only real problem with the movie? QT misses the point on Superman. Clark Kent is real and Superman is the disguise. Batman is real and Bruce Wayne is the disguise. But then again, I’m a major comic geek and QT banged Mira Sorvino, so I think he wins.

I give Vol. I 10/10 and Vol. II 10/10. But even though connected, these films should be considered separate views of the same event. Think Roshamon.

Dave Bell’s Rating: 10/10


By Sideshowsito

I don’t think I ever watched a movie that made me think so much that it made my head feel like it was gonna burst. Was I not ready to see Kill Bill Vol. 2? Was it all the anticipation build up? Or is it because I got a little carried away? Whatever it is, I finally decided to write a review for Kill Bill Vol. 2 for the Cityonfire.com Dynasty.

I don’t really have too much to say because I’m not really a person to point out my opinions and make it seem like I’m the only one in the world; but I do want to point the fine points about Kill Bill Vol. 2 that really made it a memorable experience:

Warning: Contains spoilers!

DARRYL HANNAH as ELLE DRIVER

The chapter “ELLE AND I” would be the highlight fight segment of Vol. 2. Apart from the 80% dialogue driven movie Kill Bill Vol. 2 has become, the way the “B” and “E” squares it off in Budd’s trailer was just RAD!!! It was brutal, brutal, BRUTAL! It wasn’t your elegant samurai Oren-ishii style fighting, but more of a sight you see on an episode of Jerry Springer. Darryl Hannah as Elle – we see more of her as this ruthless bitch who is remorseless to her colleague(s) and boy is she BAAAAAAAD! It’s this very scene where we find out WHY SHE LOST HER EYE, and you’ll be shocked as to how and who had done this to her beautiful blue eye.

The last words exchanged between the two femme fatale’s facing-off was quite memorable. Again, don’t wanna spoil too much for those who haven’t seen it.

The Bride’s custom “Hattori Hanzo” sword in this film seems to shine a lot more than it did in Vol. 1 (quite similar to how it made me drool over the Green Destiny Blade in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The way they describe it’s value and how you hear the silent “ssshiiinggg ” sound when they extract it from the Katana Shard made the sword possess more personality; and at one point I gave a mental note to myself, “Great , I know I’m gonna end up looking for one of those on Ebay when I get home…there goes my credit card again!” 🙂

DAVID CARRADINE as BILL

David Carradine IS the man. Warren Beatty was originally considered for the role of Bill, but I couldn’t possibly oversee that, after seeing Carradine’s performance as the grandmaster daddy of the DiVAS. The man has pure charm. He has the voice. And he is BILL. Period. Everything that Bill said in the movie I payed close attention to. It was something about the way he was talking and how he delivered the words. Boy, HE WAS JUST TOO COOL .

I think for me though, the most important scene that really made me think was the way David Carradine pointed out the metaphor about the Superman alter-ego comparison to “BEATRIX KIDDO” being an assassin even after she switched her lifestyle as Arlene P. Shit, from all the years I’ve grown up watchin Christopher Reeve as the man of steel, never at any point in my life had I even thought about it. And it;s so fuckin’ true. Bill is right . Superman is unique and making this point across, I was totally blown away by how he compared the bride being “killer” and will always be no matter what she tried to become.

See, it’s stuff like that that make films like this so interesting – when I exit the theatre driving home and still thinking things over with what has been said. I didn’t mind the fact that this movie was pretty much dialogue driven and less of the action packed pace that Vol. 1 was. I wasn’t such a big fan of the way Bill was defeated (quite predictable, to be honest). Being a crazy Battle Royale fan that I am, his defeat reminded me the way of how Kitano died in Battle Royale (getting up and walking away ). Nonetheless, this film had all the elements a Quentin Tarantino film should possess and it was successful in every possible way.

This was all about Beatrix Kiddo and how she was ready to answer bills $64 million dollar question in the end : Why did she leave him?

Slowly, I couldn’t move from my seat… and it was this point, this immense feeling of melancholy began to slowly overwhelm me… I think it was because of the mere fact that this was it. The movie finale… the end. That’s probably the only real negative feeling I have right at this moment – that the movie is finally over.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, both as one: I just absolutely loved this fuckin’ movie. Keep in mind Vol. 2 is definitely different from Vol. 1; but still met my expectations of what a great movie is meant to be. It ended just right and it made me miss our favorite characters from Vol. 1 (Oren, Vernita, Gogo, Sophie ); seeing them on the big screen once more, as the credits began to roll .

Most audiences will truly love this this film as some will become disappointed. As far as my opinions go, the kind of person who will admire such films are the types who admire such films because of what it has to offer, rather than what they have WANTED to have been: Kill Bill Vol. 2 ends off the masterpiece epic and is surely not to be missed.

Sideshowsito’s Rating: 9.5/10

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Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) Review

"Kill Bill Vol. I" American Theatrical Poster

"Kill Bill Vol. I" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Darryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Lucy Lui, Vivica Fox, Sonny Chiba, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Chiaki Kuriyama, Michael Parks, Jun Kunimura, Kazuki Kitamura

By Joe909

This is my first review for City On Fire in a long time, and it will probably be my last. The reason is simple. What was once a cool site is now a haven for losers. And I mean losers of the worst type. Worse than D&D geeks, computer nerds, and the like. I am referring to the lowest of the low: the Asian movie fanboy.

It’s all obvious. It’s all petty jealousy. If not jealousy, then a lame attempt at sounding “different” (and therefore smarter, right, fanboys?) from the pack.

I will tell you why I think Kill Bill Volume 1 is a great movie, but first I must educate the Asian movie fanboys out there. Because you see, unlike them, I actually know my ass from a hole in the ground. I have been watching the same movies that inspired Tarantino since I was a kid, in the ’70s. I was there when you had to search high and low for any Asian movies at all. I was there when things weren’t so easy. The fanboy of today merely logs onto Hkflix.com, orders some titles, reads a few message board posts, and instantly thinks he knows everything about the genre.

The fanboy is wrong. The fanboy is ALWAYS wrong. The fanboy is beneath contempt.

From “Shaolin Fox Conspiracy” to “The Chinese Mechanic,” I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the trashy US movies, the Italian exploitation, the spaghetti westerns. I’ve seen the samurai movies: new, old, and boring. And I can tell you that, even if Tarantino has lifted an image here, a scenario there, he’s nowhere near the level of creative thievery that Asian filmmakers have committed on Hollywood movies.

Yeah, yeah, yeah; we all know about the City on Fire/Reservoir Dogs connections. Fanboys use this day in and day out to keep the fire alive. But the fanboy, again, knows nothing. Let’s look at some Hong Kong movies that have pilfered from Hollywood. We’ll start with one of my favorites, Pink Force Commando. Here’s a movie that not only lifts images from Evil Dead (the heroine, Bridgett Lin, replaces a missing arm with a shotgun), but also takes liberally from Indiana Jones, the Dirty Dozen, and the Road Warrior. Moving on, there’s Red Wolf, a movie that takes from both Die Hard and Under Siege. And how about the Andy Lau movie Crocodile Hunter, another one that borrows from Die Hard?

But the fanboy is incapable of making such comparisons, because the fanboy is unaware of these movies. The fanboy has only seen Jackie Chan’s classics. The fanboy has only seen those films available at Blockbuster. The fanboy has no knowledge ? other than what he has read online ? of movies made before 1980. The fanboy merely reads that Tarantino “rips off” other movies, and believes it, without seeing those movies for himself.

Having seen so many of these movies, I can safely say that not one single frame of Kill Bill borders on plagiarism. When Uma Thurman shows up wearing Bruce Lee’s tracksuit, you don’t stand up and scream “Scoundrel!” Instead you just shake your head at how cool and how RIGHT it seems. Uma now owns that tracksuit as much as Bruce Lee ever did, and I say that as a bona fide Bruce Lee fan. This movie is vibrant, colorful, masterful, and original. Like Ebert wrote, “It’s kind of brilliant.” I agree. I agree entirely. Tarantino does what so many HK film buffs have dreamed of: he’s made a cinematic love letter to all those movies he loved as a kid.

When I reviewed the script on here a while back, I worried that the movie wouldn’t work on screen. After all, there wasn’t much story involved, not much plot beyond the standard “revenge” theme. I don’t know what I was worried about. The Shaw empire was built on films that basically revolved around the same theme, the theme of vengeance. And each of those films worked just fine: simple yarns about men seeking vengeance, yarns that reached near-mythic proportions due to their simple natures.

Like those movies, Kill Bill is mythic. Kill Bill is more mythic than any sci-fi or fantasy movie I’ve seen. These characters are not real-life; they’re comic book caricatures come to life. That’s another thing I worried about, that viewers wouldn’t care for the paper-thin characters. But I was wrong. Tarantino enjoys many triumphs with this movie, but possibly the greatest is that he and his actors make these mythic characters seem so flesh and blood; the actors in the X-Men movies looked like what they were, actors in costumes, but the actors in Kill Bill BECOME their characters. That’s not Darryl Hannah on screen, that’s Elle Driver. That’s not Uma Thurman. That’s the Bride. There have been only a few times when I so believed that the characters on screen were real, not just the writer’s creations brought to life. With only a modicum of dialog to work with, the actors successfully bring their characters to life with expressions, with the way they carry themselves. It works brilliantly, and the spaghetti-western soundtrack only serves to heighten the mythic proportions. The movie plays like Once Upon a Time in The West with samurai swords.

The movie works. The story works. With this film, Tarantino proves that he can make a moving, unique film out of the most basic of stories. His directorial skills are through the roof. The static shots that characterized Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction have been replaced with some of the most inventive shots I’ve seen. The Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves is directed with such flair and mastery that it’s instantly become one of the best sword-fights ever filmed. Like I suspected he would, Tarantino made a few changes to the story, but nothing major. For example, the brief segment in which Go-Go kills some poor fool in a bar was originally scripted for her sister Yuki, and was featured in the unfilmed chapter “Yuki’s Revenge.” One thing that interests me is the internet claim that the Blue Leaves segment is in color in the Japanese version of the film. What’s strange is that Tarantino specified in both drafts of the screenplay that the scene would be in black and white.

Re-watch value is high. There are no slow spots in Kill Bill. At first I doubted the wisdom of cutting the film in half, but now I see it was a good decision. The Blue Leaves sequence leaves the viewer breathless. I couldn’t imagine sitting there for another 90 minutes. It also serves to whet your appetite for the rest of the story. I cannot wait to see Volume Two. I absolutely cannot wait. I haven’t been this excited to see a movie since I was a kid, and saw the commercials for Star Wars. The fanboys are excited, too, of course. This means that now they have someone to bash, so they can fool others into believing they’re intelligent people with intelligent opinions.

I have another theory why the fanboys don’t like Tarantino’s movies. From the start, Tarantino has made cool movies for cool people. His earliest and greatest supporters, after all, were the jet-set crowd. By nature, however, the fanboy is not cool. The fanboy doesn’t understand cool. Kill Bill is a benchmark of cool. The fanboy doesn’t get it, because the fanboy is as cool as an overweight, acne-ridden, mullet-headed D&D freak.

I’m not going to bore you with details. Everyone knows the story. The fact is, Kill Bill is a fantastic movie, a movie made for those who love movies. Tarantino’s passion for cinema is evident in each and every blood-spattered, ingenious frame.

It’s simple. If you don’t see Kill Bill just because you have a juvenile hatred for Tarantino or Miramax, you’re an asshole.

Joe909’s Rating: 10/10


By Mairosu

*SPOILERS* I sure took my sweet time on watching this film eh. Well, I have a very low concentration span. If I see a movie which is a part of some trilogy or whatnot and the sequels are connected to each other, I would fancy seeing the related sequel somewhere between the ending credits of the first one and next week, or I lose interest. Now, that I have both Kill Bills in my reach, I finally sat down and saw the first part yesterday.

Well, I kinda like Tarantino. I really like Reservoir Dogs. And Pulp Fiction. I didn’t like Jackie Brown, but I loved From Dusk Till Dawn. True Romance wasn’t bad. Natural Born Killers either. Sure, the man’s everything but original, his style a mish-mash of various French and oriental schools, but he’s got something going for him. He’s, as much as I hate this word, “hip”. He writes a good, solid dialogue and that definitely sells his films for me. The action and the direction you saw all before, but the dialogue ? Classic material most of the time.

I was sorta amused when I heard that Quentin was going to do a homage to asian cinema with his latest effort called Kill Bill. Kill Bill (I still find this a very, very daft title mind you) took good 2 years or so to bake, and it arrived in two installments as a part of clever moneymaking ploy by our dear friends at Miramax. And after hearing all those ungodly great critics about Kill Bill, I, well, feel slightly underwhelmed.

Well, more than slightly. For once, the dialogue doesn’t save it for me. And, when you remove the Quentinesque ditties about, oh say, Madonna getting dicked from every angle or about mayo on fries in Holland, you get a film which you’ve seen before. Or feel like you saw before. Which is exactly how I felt with Kill Bill.

Story starts with a black and white shot of a blonde broad simply called “the Bride”, who is lying down all bloody. She is read her “last rites” of sorts by a bloke called simply Bill, who then proceeds to drill a bullet straight into her forehead. Cut to four years later, Bride, amazingly still alive, tracks down one of the assassins which hacked her back then and indulges into a finely choreographed fight scene with her (Vivica Fox is the other party). After a brief pause caused by Fox’s daughter coming back from school, the two settle their score and Bride returns to her grotesque pickup truck (the popular “pussy wagon”) and scratches another name off her hit list. We see that one name – that of O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) – has been already scratched, and that starts the flashback sequence which, well, lasts until the ending credits of part 1.

So, story goes, the pregnant Bride is for reasons unknown (to me at least, I missed some lines because I was watching without subs) beaten to death and left to die by the dangerous “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad” (a quirky reference to the “fox force five” from Pulp Fiction I would assume), which we learn later that the Bride was a part of as well. The chief of the organisation is the aforementioned Bill. Bride SOMEHOW survives the massacre (without her baby), and is in a state of coma. She nearly gets finished off by one of the deadly vipers (Daryl Hannah), but Bill opts to leave her in coma – killing her like that would not be honourable.

Well, a big mistake that one. Four years after the incident, Bride suddenly wakes up and is hungry for revenge. She gets her first taste of it after mauling the guy who turns out has been whoring her while in coma (quite repulsive, I know), but afterwards, she sets her sights on Japan. And O-Ren Ishii. Prior to that, she indulges into a 13 hour session of reviving her limbs while in a car of the hospital parking lot. Naturally, no one even bothers to notice that she left two dead men in a pool of blood somewhere at the hospital and that no one noticed a strange blonde in a VERY distinctive car inside of a parking lot saying “wiggle” to her toes. But oh well, it’s just a movie. Speaking of toes, I knew Quentin was a huge foot fetishist, but this surpassed anything so far. I didn’t mind seeing Lucy Liu’s feet, or the feet of the 5,6,7,8’s at the House of Blue Leaves (read on to find out), but Uma…man, those feet are ugly. And he overkills on zooming her toes. But to each his own. Anyhow, after we’re informed about O-Ren’s past through a very well-done little animated feature (a mini-anime actually), Bride takes off for Okinawa, looking for this Hattori Hanzo character.

Now, Hanzo, played by Quentin’s fanboy icon Sonny Chiba, is reportedly the direct descendent of the Hattori Hanzo from the cult 80’s series called “Shadow Warriors”. He agrees to make a sword for the Bride, as he learns that one of his former students (Bill, again) rubbed her the wrong way. So, Bride gets her sword, jets further to Tokyo, finds her way to a fancy joint called “House of the Blue Leaves” (their in-house band is a all-girl rockabilly/surf/garage trio called “5,6,7,8’s” which perform…you got it, barefoot)…and all hell breaks loose.

O-Ren was a busy girl in the past four years, apparently she became the head honcho of all the yakuza in Tokyo and assembled a private mini-army (all with Kato’s “Green Hornet” masks, a nod to Bruce Lee) to protect her, along with her personal bodyguard, a 17-year old happy-go-ballistic schoolgirl GoGo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama of Battle Royale fame) who wields something reminiscing a “kusari-gama”, an old ninja weapon consisting of a spiked ball on a chain which is tied to a sickle. After lopping off a head of a yakuza oyabun because he commented on her “unpure” (American-Chinese-Japanese) heritage, she proceeds to have some fun at the House of Blue Leaves’ exclusive suit. Which is where Bride comes in, in her yellow-black jumpsuit (another nod to Bruce Lee) and with her trusty Hanzo steel sword next to her.

What happens in the following half an hour or so is pure uncontrolled mayhem. Bride slashes, blood spurts from about everywhere, it all leads to a climactic encounter in a snow-covered garden in which O-Ren gets killed…and Bill gets informed of his former colleague who is on the lam. That wraps up the film along with a neat little cliffhanger (find it out yourself).

And as curtain falls…I’m duly unimpressed. It started good. It finished good. It had good bits around. But it just didn’t do it for me. There were no quirky speeches about Madonna, or Pam Grier, or foot massages (there were copious shots of female feet, but that’s not the same admittedly). And as I noted above, I just felt I saw it all before. The revenge plot, for one, smells of Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime), which I think Quentin even confirmed. The whole big picture of “good guy gets almost killed, then retreats, recovers, learns new skills and whups arse” was also rehashed to infinity. All the fighting choreography was exceptionally good done (choreographed by Woo-Ping Yuen, who directed such classics as Snake in Eagle’s Shadow, Drunken Master, Magnificent Butcher and recently exported his talents to the US where he helped with the Matrix trilogy et al), but it was nothing groundbreaking (minus points for every idiot who thought that “flying” sequences and the house of blue leaves fights were lifted out of Matrix) – it’s all been done before. Simply put, Kill Bill is one huge compilation of various things, and it will work for you if you are already not too acquainted with them. It is probably a great introduction to someone who wants to explore Asian film, but for me, it was just a rehash.

Not a bad rehash at that. It’s pretty watchable, and great fun at times. But with Quentin, you grow to expect more, and he just didn’t deliver for me this time. I don’t know what to expect from part 2, as part 1 got universally rip-roaringly great grades and part 2 was supposedly more subdued. I hope it will feature more fun dialogues, if nothing else.

(I’ll still buy the DVD. Damned completionist that I am.)

Mairosu’s Rating: 7/10


By Reefer

As I watched the highly anticipated fourth film of Quentin Tarantino, Kill Bill, I wondered to myself about how I was gonna review this film without giving too much away. Well, please understand that this is an especially difficult chore since there is simply nothing to give away. Aside from withholding details as to who dies and how, any plot synopsis you can give would BE the actual movie.

Summary: The Bride (Uma Thurman) wakes up from a coma, inflicted by members of a cheesy-named assassination squad, and commences to eviscerate members of said group and its mysterious leader, Bill.

And that’s exactly what happens.

Sure, the fourth film of Quentin Tarantino loads up on the gore, features a pretty great soundtrack, and some fun performances (especially by Japanese film legend, Sonny Chiba) but the narrative is nearly pointless. For example, if the subject of this film is revenge, then I believe the audience got the point in the first fifteen minutes. The Bride, as the heroine of Quentin’s fourth film, simply travels from place to place slicing-and-dicing as the story requires. Mixing up the chronology of the story’s happenings seems to only be an attempt to hide the fact that nothing new IS happening. In fact, the quality of Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film’s screenplay is certainly in question because each segment of the film is divided into nothing more clever than simple chapters instead of cinematically literate story transitions. I ask you, shouldn’t we expect something more?

Inspired by Miramax, I have decided to split my review in half and withhold my rating so that I can double the readership, thus rake in more profits. So, we’ll talk again in February. . . . . . .
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Hold on. Hold on. I am not getting paid for this. Am I? Screw this then.

Kill Bill Volume 1 Review Volume 2

Now where was I?

Oh yeah.

Now, the homage paid to Asian films and some of Quentin’s other stylistic touches do well the heighten the experience, but again, shouldn’t we expect more from the fourth film of Quentin Tarantino? I mean, really, its his fourth film isn’t it? Least that’s what the ads and the opening credits so proudly proclaim in huge font. Shouldn’t this be an achievement second to none? Well, that is, of course, for the masses to decide, but I would be lesser a film reviewer if I didn’t let it be known that it really isn’t.

Nope.

At least not in this form. Yeah, those who really want to know if the entire film is good will have to wait until February of 2004 for Volume 2, and for some, it may be too long a wait. In my mind, anyway, this clearly financial decision ironically “killed” Kill Bill. Sure, Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film leaves you with some tidbits of info to chew on until then, but unfortunately that transforms this installment into very simple back story.

Restoring the film to it’s full 3 hours-plus would truly do wonders for it. Such a “radical” idea would make the long-winded exposition of many of the supporting characters seem more practical and, I am guessing, symmetrical because I predict that there are similar narrative excursions in the next volume about the other characters. I am speaking mainly of an excellent anime story, that probably runs over ten minutes, about how O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) became the icy assassin that she is, but there are many such sequences in Quentin’s fourth film that could be cut. Moreover, the audience needs someone to root for. I hope the next installment softens The Bride up a bit because what we are left with here is an unlikable killer who has been done wrong, even though we can all assume that she has only done wrong her entire life. So who cares? Isn’t she getting what she deserves?

Ok, this is an action film. Quentin’s fourth film does not fail to deliver in that department. That is, it doesn’t if you don’t care about characterization and motivation. It doesn’t if you don’t care that Uma is nothing but a revenge robot. And finally, it doesn’t if you don’t mind your gore sudden and shockingly messy. Limbs, heads, torsos and the like are shredded, lopped, and severed while much blood is splattered, sprayed, spilled, and squirted for all to see, making it one of the most violent American films in years. It is for this reason, I believe, that in the middle of the final bloodbath the screen inexplicably goes black and white. Maybe the level of bloodshed is temporarily tamed by the loss of color. Otherwise, I have no explanation to why this film did not receive the dreaded NC-17 rating.

While I did mention that the wait might be too long for some, I will not be passing on Volume 2. After all, I have 110 minutes now invested in it. But for those of you who haven’t been as eager, you can skip this one. The next one will probably be better.

So congrats Miramax. You have another sucker. Why don’t I just mail you my $7.50 now.

Reefer’s Rating: 6.5/10

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Obsessed, The (1975) Review

"The Obsessed" Chinese VCD Cover

"The Obsessed" Chinese VCD Cover

Director: Mak Pang Chin
Cast: Nora Miao Ke Hsiu, Kwan Sang, Ko Keung, Lee Keung, Guan Shan
Running Time: 90 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

A newlywed couple’s (Kwan Sang and Nora Miao) relationship turns into a nightmare when they start to witness paranormal activity. A “spiritualist” (Ko Keung) is hired to investigate the strange phenomenon, and discovers a deep, dark secret within the marriage that’s bringing back a vengeful spirit.

The Obsessed (I have no idea why it’s titled this) is cheap-looking and tacky, even for 1970’s Hong Kong film standards. I imagine the cost of this film was as low budget as a Philippine-produced Godfrey Ho flick; probably worse, since barely any stunts or fight choreography were involved. There are some special effects, but let’s not go there.

It’s supposed to be a horror movie, but it’s not scary or creepy at all. It’s actually unintentionally funny in every possible way. It’s one of those “so bad, it’s good” movies, so if you think of it that way, it will entertain you.

Maybe I should give this film more credit. After all, it predates similar Hollywood films like The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), which were both very successful around the world. But then again, it’s not like The Obsessed was the first film of this kind.

If there’s a legitimate saving grace, it’s the presence of Nora Miao. We’re so used to seeing her as a sword-wielding heroine, or Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan’s strong co-star, but never as a helpless woman who’s having some marital problems and serious issues with ghosts. Also, where else would we get to see her make out with a guy (in this case, Kwan Sang) and scream her ass off?

It’s very important to keep in mind that the version I saw was a pan & scan, poorly dubbed, Ocean Shores english-language version. I’m sure this has a lot to do with why it came across as bad as it did. If I saw it in its original Chinese language, I’m sure it could be taken much more serious.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 5/10

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Review

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" American Theatrical Poster

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” American Theatrical Poster

Director: Ang Lee
Producer: Bill Kong, Hsu Li-Kong, Ang Lee
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, Chang Chen, Cheng Pei Pei, Lung Sihung, Betty Huang Yi
Running Time: 115 min.

By Numskull

Pretty much everything that has been said about this movie is true.

The cast is superb. Chow Yun-Fat, who gets top billing, turns in a fine performance as usual but actually has a smaller role than his female co-stars, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi. Yeoh is great as an middle-aged female warrior weary of the travelling lifestyle, and I was most pleased to see that she didn’t get dolled up too much to make her look younger (and therefore sexier to Studio Joe) than she really is (don’t take that as a slam on her, as I have more respect for her than for any pair of big tits posing as an actress that you can name). New kid on the block Zhang Ziyi has immense screen presence and, quite frankly, steals the show. You can’t take your eyes off her. She displays a vast scope of talent in one role played to perfection; she portrays multiple facets of Jen’s personality, from the sweet and innocent girl next door to the troubled loner with the mysterious secret to (most memorably) the cocky little bitch who stops at nothing to get what she wants. If there is any justice in this world, she’ll be a mega-star.

The story, despite the presence of a few cliches which most of us have seen before, is also very well done. Yes, Li Mu Bai wants to avenge his murdered master; yes, Jen is the unfulfilled daughter of a wealthy man who doesn’t want to go through with an arranged marriage; and yes, Lo is the thief with the heart of gold who falls for the rich and dignified princess type. But never mind that. Those points may be familiar but the plot’s progression is something else.

The visuals are very impressive indeed. Images of the overcrowded city streets that China is known for in this day and age are juxtaposed with sweeping shots of harsh deserts and wild forests, enforcing the idea that even the greatest fighter and the wealthiest nobleman was at the mercy of Mother Nature to some degree “way back then”.

The soundtrack is quite fitting, with the ethnic tones having a very strong presence while not being so abrasive to Joe Average with his Eminem and Jane Typical with her Backstreet Boys that they’re likely to cover their ears.

The subtitles, as far as I could tell, are flawless. I did not spot a single grammatical error. The only problem is that this probably cuts into the film’s profitability, as the average American hardly ever reads anything requiring a longer attention span than a bumper sticker.

The fighting (which, let’s face it, is the biggest reason why lots of people, myself included, watched or want to watch this movie in the first place) is magnificent. They’ve got that super-hero mentality where people can jump 30 feet in the air, but it’s all done smoothly. In particular, the two duels between Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi are so jaw-dropping that you’ll never be quite as impressed with the action in most other movies again. After watching these two ladies go at it with such frenetic energy yet so much grace and fluidity at the same time, I wished, for the first time in my life, that standing ovations were permitted in movie theaters.

Now, with all of that having been said, I have some gripes with this movie. They weren’t nearly enough to keep me from enjoying it but they’re substantial enough to put here. First, the treetop battle. Chow Yun-Fat and Zhang Ziyi engaging in a fight-chase hybrid while leaping from treetop to treetop may sound like a cool idea, but it looks ridiculous. There’s a line between poetic visual fantasy and cartoon super-hero fantasy, and this scene definitely crosses it. Still, the movie as a whole is so good I almost felt guilty for snickering. Also, there is no final fight at the end. In a straightforward martial arts action movie this would be unforgivable, but CTHD is really a drama with the battles serving as plot points rather than gratuitous eye candy, so it isn’t as big a deal. The final result of this drawback is that Li Mu Bai’s revenge is not of the most satisfying variety.

Somebody somewhere has surely referred to this as “a martial arts chick flick”. This is not entirely unfair, as a pivotal part of the story is the doomed romance between Jen and Lo, which may or may not make you think “Get on with it, for fuck’s sake”, but that is just too bland a categorization to do this movie justice. It deserves better than to be pigeonholed as a faggy art-house film. Watch it with an open mind and I think you’ll agree.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10


By Vic Nguen

“One of the greatest movies ever made!”
– Joel Siegel, Good Morning America

“The most exhilarating martial arts movie I have ever seen.”
– Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

“A work of astonishing originality.”
– The Wolf, Inside Out Film

“This film was so great that I literally shit my pants, and the excruciatingly horrific smell, along with the sheer brilliant greatness of the film, brought tears to my eye!”
– Random movie goer quoted at an overpriced multiplex; Fucktown Virginia

Okay, so that last quote may have been derived from my own twisted mind, but I concocted that obscenity-laden tripe for a reason. I’ll admit, CTHD is a good film (especially when compared to most of the shit Hollywood big-whigs shove down America’s collective movie-going asscrack (can’t remember if that was a Numskull quote, oh well, subconscious plagiarism isn’t really plagiarism)), but to go as far as to say that it is the greatest movie of all-time, that’s pushing it. I went into the movie theater with all the hype and hoopla stuck in my mind, and when I left, I found myself asking the question, “so that was it?” Now that I think about it, I probably would have liked the film a lot more if it wasn’t for the fuckin media overkill. Then again, I’ll probably end up going off into another one of my “FUCK HOLLYWOOD” tangents, so let’s discuss the actual film, shall we.

Most of you guys know the plot synopsis, so I won’t waste your time with it. First things first, the singular aspect that impressed me the most from this film is definitely the cinematography. Peter Pau, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the best cinematographers working in the film industry today. He can master and adapt to any genre at a moments notice (just take a look at his subtle work in Anna Magdalena, and juxtapose that to his inventive genius in The Phantom Lover, and you’ll see what I mean). His work on CTHD is no different. The film is filled to the brim with painstakingly elaborate compositions that are picturesque and beautiful. The scenes that take place in the desert flashback definitely come to mind. Another great thing about Pau’s work in CTHD is the fact that he knows how to film a fight scene. Take a look at all the fight-flicks that Hollywood churns out today, and you’ll notice that ALL of the fight scenes are shot so close that it is impossible to appreciate the actors true skills. You won’t see any of that crap in CTHD, however (or any other competent martial arts film, for that matter). Pau utilizes wide shots, which, along with conservative editing, makes CTHD’s fight scenes all the more exhilarating then compared to say, Romeo Must Die (or Rush Hour, or Lethal Weapon 4, or Mortal Kombat, or Shanghai Noon, yada yada yada….) Pau’s win at this years Academy Awards finally gave him the international recognition that he deserves, and hopefully he’ll get better work in the future, instead of making more shit like Dracula 2001.

When you’ve got a cast that includes Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, and the legendary Cheng Pei-pei, you know that acting wasn’t a major concern for the filmmakers. Chow Yun-fat, as always, gives a noteworthy performance as the aging martial arts master. I agree that he appeared awkward in many scenes with copious amounts of dialogue, but I’ll let it slide since Mandarin isn’t his native language, and because he’s Chow fucking Yun-fat. Michelle Yeoh doesn’t wear any skin tight leather in this one, but she still really hot for a character that’s supposed to be an aging hag. Oh yeah, and she gives a good performance as well, especially considering since, like Chow Yun-fat, Mandarin is not her native language. Zhang Ziyi (who could easily pass off as Gong Li’s younger sister) is now one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood, based solely on the strength of this film. It’s easy to see why. She’s got great screen presence, and she handles her vast amount of screen time with confidence and ease. Can’t wait to see her in Rush Hour 2. Chang Chen was quite good in Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together, and he handles his role in CTHD well enough. Looks to me like he will be another one of those stars “on the rise” (better if it’s him, and not some talentless hack like Edison Chan, who stunk up Gen-Y Cops, which was a piece of horse manure by the way). Cheng Pei-pei starred in one of my personal favorite films (Come Drink With Me), so her turn as the evil-martial-arts-master-filled-with-vengeance brought me back to the days of King Hu (who obviously influenced Ang Lee, and whose films are infinitely superior; seek out A Touch of Zen if you got the chance.)

Of course, a vast majority of the people that contributed to the $200 million+ box office gross could give a dingo’s dick about storyline, acting, cinematography, etc. What they wanted was pure, adrenaline pumping wire fu. So how were the fight scenes, you ask? Good, to say the least, but nothing I haven’t seen before. Call me crazy, but I can think of about a dozen or so other fight scenes that I’d prefer over the ones in CTHD. Maybe it’s that hard-bitten, cynical-elitist side of me speaking, but face it, the fight scenes in CTHD are not the “be-all, end-all” as far as kung fu flicks go. Yuen Woo-ping has done a lot better (with the exception of The Matrix, I just couldn’t get past Keanu and his pseudo-Bruce Lee impersonation). Despite the bitter ranting, I can honestly say that Michelle vs. Zhang Zhiyi in the dojo was loads of fun. Plenty of aggressiveness and athleticism on display there. Their opening chase/fight was good, albeit a bit anti-climactic. The much talked about bamboo forest scene is a tad disappointing as far as fight scenes go, but the cinematography was astounding the entire way. There are others peppered throughout the film, but they were nothing to write home about (although the restaurant scene had some good laughs). The entire wire-fu thing has sharply divided many viewers. Either you love it or hate it. I personally love wire fu, that is, if it’s done right. The wire fu in CTHD is executed well enough, but appears stilted and shoddy when compared to superior efforts.

Hmm, what else have I yet to discuss (assuming you have been reading the entire way through). Oh yes, Tan Dun’s wonderful musical score provides the perfect complement to the films melancholy tone. Occasionally haunting and very elaborate, it is a job well done (thank god there aren’t any grating rap interludes). I could have done without the sappy pop-stylings of Coco Lee though, but its a minor quibble since she only has one song throughout the entire film. The editing by Tim Squyres allows CTHD to develop at a slow, VERY deliberate pace that works well for this type of film. So those of you who grew up nurtured by the evils of MTV, this isn’t the film for you (assuming, of course, that you have the attention spans of an acorn, which is probably the vast majority). Ang Lee’s direction has been endlessly discussed and praised by film critics everywhere, so I have no real incites regarding the subject. But if someone refers to the fuckin movie as “Sense and Sensibility with kung fu” again, I swear there will be hell to pay.

Anyway, with that out of my system, let’s get down to some closing thoughts. I am ecstatic that CTHD has been a mega-success worldwide, because that could only lead to increased exposure of not just martial arts films, but Asian cinema in general. In the last couple of months, films that Hollywood studios would usually ignore are now getting picked up for US distribution (ie- Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer and The King of Comedy). Yes, there is the possibility that these films will be butchered and dubbed (ie-every single non-US Jackie Chan flick), but there is also the inherent possibility that these films will be released subtitled and uncut (ie-Gen X Cops, Miracles, Takeshi Kitano films, etc.). No, CTHD is not the best film of all time, but hopefully it will inspire others to further explore a genre brimming with better films.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 8/10


By David Reiffer

All the super positive reviews for this movie simply amazed me. Don’t get me wrong, this is a ground-breaking film. Action movies will never be the same. But I couldn’t believe such praise was laid upon a kung fu movie. I rarely take seriously the criticism of kung fu movies. Many because I believe its impact depends on the “WOW! Fact or” of its contents.

After seeing this movie, no, living this movie, I can understand the hype which is all very well deserved. There was great acting by all the principle characters and mind-blowing action along the way. After successful releases such as The Matrix and this film, mainstream movies with never be the same.

David Reiffer’s Rating: 9.5/10


By Klotera

First off – this is NOT an HK martial arts movie. Don’t expect it to be like one. This is not Fist of Legend, Drunken Master II, or Iron Monkey. What is it? A beautiful character based story rolled into a unique martial arts film experience. Much in the vein of Ang Lee’s earlier “Eat Drink Man Woman” (another brilliant movie), this film is about the characters, their situations, how the deal with their situations, and how all their situations come together to affect the others.

In this, Ang Lee’s new masterpiece succeeds just as much as that earlier effort. This is combined with a beautiful setting, featuring amazing locales, cinematography, and score. Martial arts sequences are beautifully choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping who manages to really make the fights fit in perfectly with the style of the film. There are plenty of wires, but the fighting itself is more grounded than your average wire-fu. While it isn’t quite Fist of Legend, the martial arts here are quite memorable, particularly the Yeoh/Zhang fight in the armory.

Performances all around are great, with Zhang Ziyi’s confused and angry character stealing the show. The somewhat forced Mandarin of Chow and Yeoh may be a slight point of controversy (much less so for those of us who don’t speak Mandarin) – but it doesn’t change the fact that you can see the emotion in their faces and in their actions. Some people say this movie is overrated. As a martial arts movie, maybe. As a film overall – no way. This character based film is engaging and unforgettable. It is the perfect way for Ang Lee to pay tribute to the martial arts and wuxia stories he loves. Truly one of the best movies I have ever seen and one of only a handful that would get a 10/10 from me (the other couple being domestic films).

Klotera’s Rating: 10/10


By James H.

From the very first shot until the very end of the credits, I was glued to the edge of my seat, with my eyes glued to the screen in front. I watched for 120 minutes, this epic story of love, honour, freedom and revenge.

The complex story follows the search for the Green Destiny sword. Retiring warrior Li Mu Bai (a simply phenomenal Chow Yun-Fat), gives his sword as a gift. However, the sword is stolen by a mischievous young martial artist Jen (the gorgeous Zhang Ziyi, who will be in “Rush Hour 2”). Li Mu Bai’s close friend, fellow warrior, and object of his affection, Yu Shu Lien (a marvelous Michelle Yeoh), then vows to get it back. Watching this story unfold is one of the most exciting things one will ever see.

The acting is above top-notch. I was absorbed by every facial expression and every movement. Normally, when you watch a film with Chow Yun-Fat, it’s always Chow Yun-Fat as so-and-so. But in “Crouching Tiger”, the character absorbs Yun-Fat, and you forget that it is him.

However, the film belongs to Michelle Yeoh and new-comer Zhang Ziyi. When they take the screen, they leap off of it. Both command enormous screen presence, and could easily carry this film on their own.

As well, this film could have easily collapsed under the weight of the complex story and the actors, but director Ang Lee superbly manages to gracefully holds everything together, and keeps the film at a lightening pace.

Also, Lee creates easily some of the most awe-inspiring fight scenes ever committed to celluloid. Forget “Police Story”, forget “Fist of Legend” and forget “Drunken Master 2”. They are nothing compared with this film. Yeoh and Ziyi move with grace and fury; they are unbelievable.

The year 2000 has been an abysmal one for filmgoers. We watched all summer, month after month, as mediocre films came and went leaving little impact. Not only is “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” the best film of the year, it will leave an impact on filmgoers for several years to come.

James H’s Rating: 10/10


By Retter

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” stars Chow Yun Fat as a retiring warrior called Li Mu Bai who is giving up his prized sword to a master. He has come from a period of meditation, which he found disturbing, and wants to put his warrior days behind him. He is co-stared by Michelle Yeo who plays Yu Shu Lien, an equally gifted warrior in martial arts, who once was in love with the brother of Li Mu Bai, but he was killed in battle. She now has feelings for Li but won’t show them to him in respect for his brother. Li, after giving his priceless sword to a master and close friend, finds the sword is stolen by the beautiful Jen played by Zhang Ziyi. Li must get the sword back, and he is aided in his quest for what is right, by Yu Shu Lien. Zhang is a student of Jade Fox ,a ruthless martial artist who is known for her stealing of a secret martial arts manual, and the murder of Li’s former Master.

With these main characters, and also Zhang Ziyi’s true love interest, unfolds a truly engrossing story which although is long travels at a lightening pace. The acting by all the leads is brilliant, and all the supporting cast are flawless. The story is complicated but is easy to follow, with Ang Lee showing the world what a great director he is. The cinematography is brilliant especially in the beautiful natural surroundings where the film’s characters often are. The plot is excellently constructed and all the characters are well developed. The films music score has a variety of classic chinese music pieces, and are often emotionally stirring, and add to the films authentic atmosphere. The film settings are beautifully colorful and very realistic for the time period the film tries to replicate.

Just the things I have said so far are reasons to go and watch this film, but it is all topped off by amazingly choreographed fight scenes, which are furious and dazzlingly over the top. These fight scenes were directed by Yuen Wo Ping who is famous for his work on “The Matrix”, but “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a far superior film in every aspect. I was highly impressed by And Lee’s direction because he blended classic story telling with jaw dropping action to produce one very entertaining film. The use of “wires” was brilliant in this film, where warriors can fly from rooftop to rooftop. This is a great example of excellent world cinema which is hugely vibrant, fresh, and acclaimed by both critics and audiences.

If you only see one foreign movie this year, make sure you see “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, because it is such an outstanding film which is guaranteed to satisfy.

Retter’s Rating: 9/10 (I can’t give any film ten because there can always be room for improvement although this is near perfect)

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Happy Together | aka Buenos Aires Affair (1997) Review

"Happy Together" American DVD Cover

"Happy Together" American DVD Cover

Director: Wong Kar Wai
Writer: Wong Kar Wai
Producer: Chan Yee Gan
Cast: Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Chang Chen, Shirley Gwan Suet Lai, Linda Wong Hing Ping
Running Time: 97 min.

By Woody

Ignore your homophobia for an hour and a half and watch this film. It is a brilliant meditation on a failing relationship, and will definitely strike a chord with anyone who has been in a relationship nearing it’s end.

“Happy Together” concerns the failing relationship between two gay men in Buenos Aires, Yui-fai (Tony Leung Chui Wai) and Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung). Shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires and getting lost along the way, the bitchy Po-Wing leaves Yui-fai, only returning when injured or in need of money. As Yui-fai slowly spirals into a deep depression, the only time optimistic thing that he experiences in Buenos Aires is his platonic relationship with co-worker Chang (Chang Cheh). After Chang leaves Buenos Aires to return home to Taiwan, Yui-fai is faced with a dilemma. Should he stay with Po-Wing in Buenos Aires or return home to Hong Kong?

If it weren’t so downbeat and depressing, this would be, hands-down, Wong Kar-wai’s greatest film. It works on all levels. The acting, direction, set design, and more than anything, the cinematography, are brilliant.

Let’s start with the acting. Tony Leung Chui-wai is great as ever here as the tortured Yui-fai. No one is as good at looking down and sad as Chui-wai, and his performance came really close to winning best actor at Cannes (one more vote and the award would have been his). This is the film that made me stand up and realize just how great an actor the man is…imagine how hard it must have been for the guy when he arrived in Buenos Aires to learn that Wong Kar-wai had changed his role from a son searching for his gay father to being a gay man in a relationship with Leslie Cheung, and that he would have to shoot a sex scene with him.

Leslie Cheung’s performance as the bitchy Po-Wing is also perfect…he gives what could have been a really one note role a lot more depth than one would expect. Po-Wing does indeed love Yui-fai, but has too many personal demons and problems with himself to be able to love another human being in a normal, healthy way. Chang Cheh is a revelation here. His character is very much like a male version of Faye Wong in “Chungking Express”. Much like that character, he brings optimism and hope to the proceedings, something a film as depressing as this one desperately needs. He plays his character with just the right note of wide-eyed innocence and shows that he is really one to look out for.

The directing and writing are, as expected, great. Wong Kar-wai seems incapable of making a bad film. Everything here gels so perfectly. The jump cuts, the black and white to color, the editing…it all fits the film perfectly. Interesting fact: The film was originally three hours long, and was edited to it’s current running time (an hour and a half) a day or so before it was to premiere ar Cannes. Among the cut and unused footage is a whole performance from Shirley Kwan and a suicide attempt by Yui-fai.

What really makes this film work, though, is the cinematography. Christopher Doyle is the world’s best living cinematographer…you can press the pause button on your remote at any point in the film and it could make a great still photograph. He uses black and white film, oversaturated color, and slow mo to great effect and caps it all with the most amazing shot I have ever seen…Doyle was able to film the Icuazu falls from above in a helicopter. That scene is simply astounding in it’s beauty and is just amazing.

The music is also really great, featuring Piazolla’s “Tango Appasionado”, Frank Zappa’s great foray into jazz “Chunga’s Revenge”, Danny Chung’s great, upbeat cover of The Turtles’ “Happy Together”, and another great Zappa song, the Peter Frampton parody “I Have Been In You”, among others.

All in all, if it weren’t for “Chungking Express”, this would undoubtedly be Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece. Trust me, it is great. Don’t feel uncomfortable just because it concerns two gay men. This isn’t a gay film, it is a relationship film. It gets my fullest recommendation. See it and you’ll never forget it.

Woody’s Rating: 10/10


By Vic Nguyen

Inspired by author Manuel Puig’s The Buenos Aires Affair, this 1997 picture is the latest to come from art house filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. Presented in a non linear narrative, the story follows the lives of a bickering gay couple, who split up during their trip to Argentina, only to reunite and split up again. Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing play the couple, and give real depth to their underwritten characters (this is a given, since Wong Kar-wai doesn’t prescript his own films), while Taiwanese actor Chang Chen is fares well with his excellent performance. Once again, Christopher Doyle complements the film with an exotic look, alternating between classic black and white and bright and lush colors. Another Wong Kar-wai masterpiece.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 9.5/10

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Fallen Angels (1995) Review

"Fallen Angels" German Theatrical Poster

"Fallen Angels" German Theatrical Poster

Director: Wong Kar Wai
Writer: Wong Kar Wai
Producer: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai
Cast: Leon Lai Ming, Michelle Reis, Kaneshiro Takeshi, Charlie Young Choi Nei, Karen Mok Man Wai, Chan Man Lei, Chan Fai Hung, Benz Kong To Hoi
Running Time: 96 min.

By Alexander

“Fallen Angels,” Wong Kar-Wai’s follow-up to “Chungking Express,” is as stark a movie as “Chungking” is bright and airy. Notable, really, only for Takeshi Kaneshiro’s inspired performance as an amicable, mute “thug,” “Angels” is simply too bleak to enjoy. The lingering scene of a character “satisfying herself” (ahem) is daring, sure, but only succeeds in beating us over the heads with something we already know: These characters are REALLY lonely. Yes, this film is “different,” and I’m all for taking chances, but despite the fun of Kaneshiro’s odd character, there’s just not enough here to like. I’m just glad I saw “Chungking Express” before this or I might never have given WKW another chance.

Alexander’s Rating: 6/10


By Yates

This is one of those movies that kind of grows on you. The first time I saw it, I had mixed reactions. I liked it, but thought it had nothing on Chungking Express, and for that reason I thought of it as a dissapointment. Now, after watching it a couple of more times, I like it even more than Chungking Express. It’s a really wonderful film in it’s own right. I think the main reason people dislike it is because it is a very dark film. Every shot, save the last one, takes place at night in a virtual monsoon, and all of the action takes place in small, dirty hallways and deserted subways, and other rather undesirable places. Another reason people probably dislike this film is that the characters are downright bizzare. Not quirky, like in Chungking Express, but downright strange. I think the two strangest performances are by Charlie Yeung and Karen! Mok. Especially Karen Mok. Her charector is like Faye Wong’s Chungking Express character on crack. Trust me, this is one off the wall performance.

I think yet another reason this film is not as well received as Chungking Express is that it does not have a particularly happy, upbeat ending. While it is a nice ending, the audience knows that no one in the movie will be any happier in the future. I still dont know why people dislike this film so much. It’s meant to be dark and bizarre. If you watch it expecting Chungking Express, you will be dissapointed. This is not a romance film, it is more along the lines of film noir. Out of all the people who deserve mention for this wonderful film, three names stick out in particular. Takeshi Kaneshiro, Michele Reis, and Chistopher Doyle. Takeshi Kaneshiro gives the performance of a lifetime in the role of mute ex-convic! t He Qiwu. The section of the film concerning his character is funny, sad, and in the end, very touching.

Michele Reis… well, what can I say, she looks great! Wong Kar Wai deserves major props for casting her in this role. I really felt bad for her charecter, The Agent. And the person who deserves more props than anyone? Christopher Doyle. You can press the freeze button on any part of this film and you will have an amazing still portrait. Thanks to the cinematography, this rises above film and into art. Chris Coyle is just as much a genius as Wong Kar Wai. This, in my opinion, is the best HK film I have ever seen, and it is my personal favorite film. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Wong Kar Wai is a genius.

Yates’ Rating: 10/10


By Yi-Long

First of all… this movie is DARK. With dark I mean the whole movie takes place at night, the characters are mostly the outcast of society and there is (almost) no humour in it. Unlike Wong Kar-wai’s masterpiece Chunking Express, where most characters were very likeable, this movie just has some “interesting” characters in it. You never really get any kind of relationship with any of the characters, because they are either immoral, or they are just plain crazy (in a funny way).

The acting in this movie is pretty good, most notably Takeshi Kaneshiro’s portrayal of the mute who breaks into other people’s stores at night to EARN some money. This is the only character you will really feel for in the end. Visually this movie is pretty good, but the best thing about this movie must be the soundtrack: Every time Leon’s character goes out, you get to hear a great song. The song that plays at the end of the movie is also extremely suitable. This movie is technically a great movie, but both story and characters are alot less interesting than WKW’s other movies.

Yi-Long’s Rating: 7.5/10

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Chungking Express (1994) Review

"Chungking Express" French Theatrical Poster

"Chungking Express" French Theatrical Poster

AKA: Chung King Express
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Writer: Wong Kar Wai
Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle
Cast: Brigitte Lin, Kaneshiro Takeshi, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Faye Wong, Valerie Chow Kar Ling, Piggy Chan Kam Chuen, Piggy Chan Kam Chuen, Joh Chung Sing
Running Time: 102 min.

By Lady Tequila

Wong Kar-Wai’s Hong Kong is an offbeat, stylised, slow-motion blur of colours, sounds, tastes and smells which roll off the screen with the vividness of a dream. The ever-present, streaking neon of the city night is just unforgettable, and provides a great backdrop for this simple slice of life, in which two stories run concurrently, with many similar themes explored between them, such as lovesickness and being alone in a world of people. Nothing is rammed down our throats. Nothing is spelled out. Subtlety is everything here, and in a film where narrative and plot is forsaken for imagery and emotions, a simple moment can mean so much. Just like in ‘real life’.

Even the music kicks ass. California Dreaming never sounded so good. There are some top-notch performances. Brigitte Lin reminds us why she was famous in the first place and fills the screen with a wonderful presence – and the blonde Marilyn wig is a scream! Much was made of Faye Wong…I’m going to be radical and say, yes, she’s OK but after a while it seems like she only has the one expression: a sort of “I’m-yearning-and-poetic-but-also-kookie” thing, but she does bring a nice sense of innocence to the role. Takeshi Kaneshiro is kind of cool, and there’s an almost exuberant feeling about him. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is brilliant, as ever; he just has so much charisma, and in this movie there are several shots of him doing nothing much at all – but he fills that screen, nonetheless. His character is the archetypal Wong Kar-Wai male: aloof, mysterious, untouchable, and very alone. Favourite hobby – leaning against the wall and smoking cigarettes.

On the downside, the fact that there are essentially two different stories going on at the same time, with equal time given to each, can mean that some of the simplicity Wong Kar-Wai seemed to try so hard to evoke becomes lost. I think a much more powerful film could’ve been made if just one of the stories was taken and concentrated on. Also, there are times when some of the ‘symbolic moments’ meander a bit down paths not so easy to follow – tinned pineapple, anyone? I confess I found that a little tortuous. But in a way, those kind of moments are all the more reason to like this movie, where imperfections seem more like cinematic explorations and experiments. And anyway, with themes of imperfect and unrequited love (and mouldy tins of pineapple) surely a little imperfection is a good thing?

Lady Tequila’s Rating: 8/10


By Alexander

Certain films offer the same nostalgic feelings that often envelope us when listening to a favorite song or catching a familiar scent. For example, “Reservoir Dogs” and Woo’s “The Killer” will forever remind me of one memorable summer seven years ago when I caught both on video, back-to-back, for the first time. Wong Kar Wai’s “Chungking Express” also stirs feelings of nostalgia for another summer not too long ago. Not everyone will revere this film like I do, but most will agree it’s a wonderfully simple, quirky film with outstanding, energetic performances by Takeshi Kaneshiro and a beautiful Faye Wong. Sure, it meanders off-course a couple times (expired pineapples?!), but that’s part of the appeal. To date, Wong Kar-Wai’s best — and certainly most fun — film.

Alexander’s Rating: 9.5/10


By Yates

This is the best Hong Kong film I have ever seen. Hell, this is the best film in any country I have ever seen! There is not one bad thing I can say about this film. The acting is amazing, the direction superb, and the cinematography (courtesy of Christopher Doyle) is beautiful. After seeing this film, I had such a huge crush on Faye Wong. She is great in this film. Another great performance was that of Takeshi Kaneshiro. He is too cool, and if you dont crack up when he starts yelling at the employee at the store about the feelings of the expired pineapples, there is something seriously wrong with you. I never grow tired of this film. I watch nearly every other week. I can’t praise this film enough. Wong Kar Wai is a genius.

Yates’ Rating: 10/10


By James H.

Wong Kar-Wai’s film, “Chungking Express”, is easily one of the most visually pleasing films I have ever seen. The film revolves around two separate stories about two police officers who have recently been ousted from their respective relationships.

There’s not much that can be said about this film that hasn’t been said before. The cinematography is perfect, the acting is great, and the music is superb (although, you may be sick of “California Dreamin” by the end of it).

The one problem I had though, was with the subtitles. The version I have is the American release under Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder company. I would have thought that because he liked the film, he would have re-mastered it and made the subtitles just a little clearer.

I’ll have to agree with Jeff on this one, I did not find anything wrong with the film. It’s fun, it’s uplifting, and we can all relate, because I’m sure we’ve all been there before.

James H’s Rating: 10/10


By Vic Nguyen

Art-house director Wong Kar-wai, in a brief hiatus from editing his epic Ashes of Time, found the time to film this little masterpiece, which is considered by many to be a superior effort. Two intersecting stories about lost love and isolation are enhanced by superb cinematography and delightful performances from Faye Wong and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Although the soundtrack is plagued by repetition (The Mama’s and Papa’s California Dreamin is played at least 6 times, maybe more), that in no way alters the enjoyment one receives when viewing this delightful production. Also features Valerie Chow, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Brigette Lin in her final screen performance.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 10/10

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Beast Stalker, The (2008) Review

"The Beast Stalker" UK DVD Cover

"The Beast Stalker" UK DVD Cover

AKA: Beaststalker
Director: Dante Lam
Writer: Jack Ng
Cast: Nicholas Tse Ting Fung, Nick Cheung Ka Fai, Sherman Chung Shu Man, Derek Kwok Jing Hung, Ringo Chan Ka Leung, Joe Cheung Tung Cho
Running Time: 111 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

I just realized it’s been years since I’ve seen a Dante Lam flick (last one I saw was 1998’s Beast Cops), let alone any Hong Kong movie. I have to say, popping in a modern Chinese crime film was a nice change of pace for me. I’ve been sort of pissed off at current films lately (all genres, all countries); so most of what I’ve been watching are ones I already love or classics that I’ve never seen. It’s films like Avatar and Transformers 2 that steer me to that backwards direction (God, those movies sucked).

This brings us to Dante Lam’s Beast Stalker (which has nothing to do with Marc Singer or barbarians). This moody action-thriller centers around a hot headed cop (Nicholas Tse), some asshole gangsters, a murdered child, a grieving mother, and a kidnapping by a psycho called “Beast” (Nick Cheung). Without giving too much away, the way the story unfolds would make Paul Haggis proud.

Beast Stalker starts out typical, then mellow drama starts to pour in. The next thing you know, tension comes out of nowhere; now you’re glued, and what started out as something you didn’t want to watch, turns out to be very watchable.

Nicholas Tse – who is looking more like a man these days; and less like a long-haired teeny bopper with highlighted hair – gives us an outstanding performance. To a lesser extent, Nick Cheung carries the weight with some solid acting.

There is a major car accident sequence that is visually impressive. This is very rare for me to say, but I actually appreciate the use of cgi in these particular shots. I never thought that little pieces of glass and slow motion could look so awesome.

Now, if they could only put a stop to that shaky camera and constant zooming crap; why in the hell is everyone still going for that Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay bullshit? It got old more than 15 years ago. Enough.

All in all, Beast Stalker is passable flick, just don’t expect to remember it years from now.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 6.5/10

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