Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

Media Update 5/5/2016

May 5, 2016


Battle Royale (Japan 2000)

I had heard about this franchise a long while ago. I knew that it was a novel first (published in 1999), then a manga series and I had first heard of a tabletop RPG game based on the franchise. I never read or played any of that but I was aware of the franchise and I was vaguely interested. The basic premise is that 42 Japanese school children (our Grade 7, I think) are hauled off to an uninhabited island. They are each given a weapon and told that all but one must die or all will die in three days. This is fully supported by the Japanese government. What ensues is a very gory and very dark story of children in combat against children. The movie mostly follows a student named Nanahara and his friend Noriko. However, it also shows the audience the fates and movements of the other students through short vignettes. The movie was violent but very exciting, chilling and moving. I have heard the comparisons with Hunger Games but not only did Battle Royale come first, it is way more compelling. That is not to say that Hunger Games is bad, it is just a statement about how good Battle Royale is. The child actors are perhaps some of the best I have ever seen especially considering some of them were not given much to go on. This movie really surprised me and I definitely recommend it.


Journey to the West (China 2011)

I previously mentioned how much I loved Kung Fu Hustle. That movie was a Stephen Chow creation and, despite spelling his first name wrong, he put together a masterpiece of a martial arts film. Journey to the West is another Stephen Chow movie and his take on a Chinese novel published back in the Ming Dynasty. The original book followed the adventures and trials of a Buddhist monk journeying to obtain sacred texts. The novel added folk tale elements to the monk’s true account. I love folk tales and mythology. The movie takes that framework and makes a story about a demon hunter who fights demons through peaceful, empathetic means. The movie follows this man’s literal journey into the west to reach enlightenment and to fully accept his non-violent path given to him by his mentor. On the way, he encounters three powerful demons including the legendary Monkey King (a key figure in Chinese folktales). The movie has Chow’s great mix of comedy, strangeness and touching drama along with amazing digital and practical effects. This one does not have as much fighting but there is plenty of action and adventure to keep you satisfied. There is a very smooth merging of Buddhist philosophy with the playful brutality of the folk tales. Like most films that are similar to this one (Kung Fu Hustle, City Under Siege are two examples) there are a lot of different genres represented. I don’t want to spoil anymore so I will just say that I strongly urge you to watch this movie.


Wing Chun (Hong Kong 1994)

This was an interesting find. The movie seems to be designed mostly be a vehicle for Michelle Yeoh who would later go on to great fame in the United States due to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and one of the worst Bond films. Yeoh is a great martial artist but the choreography looked a little sloppy here in places. The acting is all in hyper-melodramatic style which makes some sense considering the plot. The movie is both a martial arts film and a romantic comedy of sorts. It shares a lot of classic Shakespearean (and older) comedy tropes such as mistaken identity and the effect of gender roles on dating. The movie is very, very silly but not in the way a Stephen Chow movie is silly. It was more Jackie Chan silly as there was a lot of mugging along with the martial arts. While it was not really a bad movie, it was not really my cup of tea. Maybe it was the mood, I was in but the exaggerated acting and the way the characters shouted almost every line was a little unnerving. It also felt like the movie could have used better ADR work in places. If I am listening to the original language track (Chinese) then it should not sound badly dubbed. This is a rare movie I would say don’t bother with.

Links of the Week:
Beach Slang – Noisy Heaven
Heaven & Hell – Bible Black
Method Man – Even If
Hank Williams – Jambalaya (on the Bayou)
Puffy Amiyumi – K2G

Weekly Updates
– Lost Girl Season 5 is really good.
– Daredevil Season 2 is awesome
– Gonna go see Keanu and Captain America: Civil War
– Started watching Kimmy Schmidt season 2 and it is hilarious
– Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday. Support your brick and mortar shop!
– This week’s theme is “Asian Action”
– Did everyone enjoy the A to Z Challenge last month?

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

April 5, 2016

When I was sitting down to plan all of my entries for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I tried to think about what happened last year that worked. Last year, I reviewed a movie named City Under Siege for the third day of the challenge and he letter C. I picked the title at random because it was available on Netflix and fit a letter that I had no other plans for. I went into the movie blind and ended up loving it and highly recommending it. I scrolled through my Netflix list and tried to think of movies that would be fun to review this month. I never want my blog to be a chore and I never want to post anything that was not genuine. I ended up picking today’s movie because I was intrigued by the title and, like City Under Siege, it is an Asian film. I am always looking to expand my horizons so how about we see how that worked out?

I usually go for dubbed versions of these movies if I can help it but this was not an option this time. I am totally alright with that though because I have watched a lot of subtitled movies in various languages as well. This is Chinese which has rules that automatically make it a short of musical language with a particular staccato rhythm. I like it, I just do not speak it. It is sort of a period piece which I am not as experienced in beside movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It looks like we’re looking at maybe the early 1800’s but I really don’t know Chinese history very well. Add on to that the fact that this is a stylized movie much in the way of the Sherlock Holmes movies or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Time period means less than the general look of the movie.

The movie stars Andy Lau who you may know from movies I still want to see like House of Flying Daggers and Infernal Affairs and an upcoming Matt Damon movie. He plays a disgraced dissident who must solve why important people are suddenly spontaneously combusting. He has a comic but serious air to him that is pretty charismatic. I am surprised that he has not been scooped up by Hollywood before recent events. His Co-star is Bingbing Li who actually has been in some minor Hollywood films. She plays the Empress’ right-hand woman, Jing’er, who is responsible for Detective Dee and also the Empress’ safety. Her face and voice depict even more than her lines do and she’s a great match for Lau. They are joined by a lot of good side characters like the Empress, Donglai, Wang and many more.

As expected, there’s a lot of martial arts in the movie. It is a Hong Kong film so it is not surprising that there is brilliant fight scenes with weapons, wire stunts and a lot of choreographed chaos. My favorite thing about Hong Kong movies is the fluidity of motion and the elaborate movements that people use sometimes to accomplish simple tasks. It makes every moment seem important. I also expected there to be mystery elements in the movie since the word is in the title and the main character is a detective. I did not expect the mystery to be so intricate and well written. It reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot or other similar logic-based mystery stories. There is even rudimentary forensics without getting too outlandish. What I was not prepared for was the politics. There are some interesting political motivations going on that underly everything. Some of them even have parallels to early 2016 US politics but it’s all really well done.

The movie is silly in places and some things do not make sense but I chalk that up to cultural differences. There are probably references that I am not catching which is fine. I really liked this movie quite a bit. There were a lot of surprises that I just cannot get into here for fear of spoiling the movie. The movie also had a lot of interesting innovations for old devices that I really enjoyed a lot. The characters were complicated and difficult to predict. I really, really liked that. This movie has been on Netflix for forever so I hope it’s there when you go looking for it.

City Under Siege (2010)

April 3, 2015

To be fair, I went into this movie with the express purpose of reviewing it for the A to Z Blogging Challenge because it started with a C and I haven’t done as many movie or television reviews in a while. I like doing my little quasi-reviews and when I saw it on the Netflix menu, City Under Siege looked like it might be awful. It was either this or Chinese Zodiac which is a recent Jackie Chan movie. Anyway, I thought this would be awful and it’s really fun to tear apart a bad movie. However, it’s also really fun to be surprised and experience new things as well. To be fair, I watched the English dub version.

I don’t watch many foreign films. When I say this, I don’t really count British movies as we are in the middle of a second British Invasion. I guess I watch more than the average American but that’s not saying much. City Under Siege is the poorly titled effort of Hong Kong director Benny Chan who directed one of my favorite Jackie Chan movies. The movie is an odd mix of comedy and deep drama all rolled together in a superhero movie. Yes, this is basically a superhero movie in my eyes.

Now let me use my patented “Quotes from me as I watched the movie” to highlight parts of the movie.

This is slightly spoilery. Skip to the bottom if you don’t want any spoilers.

“Welp, there’s a clown. I’m out.”

The hero is a circus clown who becomes a superhero. Clowns creep me out but I’ve learned to embrace that. Still, it made the introduction of the movie’s main character a weird one. Warning: The first shot after the movie’s prologue is a clown closeup. However, clown is also the hero’s main personality style and although it can get annoying, he’s pretty fun.

“Whips? Daggers? What kind of circus is this?”

The circus depicted in the movie is some sort of martial arts circus that I’ve never heard of before. Maybe these sorts of circuses are popular in Malaysia or Hong Kong but they weren’t what I grew up with. If they were, I would have begged to go to the circus more often.

“Ok this was kind of an inspirational sports movie and now it’s a heist film. Now it’s a martial arts film. This is that timeless tale of the knife-throwing clown who becomes a mutant and…Ohh this is a superhero movie. I’m on board.”

The movie shifts back and forth between a lot of plots but at it’s heart it is a superhero movie. It starts like a sports movie about a knife-thrower and then it goes on from there. The tonal shifts actually help build exposition fairly naturally and give you a break between the high impact wire fighting scenes. It also gives the movie more heart.

“There are a lot of characters in this. They… wait Paparazzi Duty?!”

This is a small thing but a reporter gets moved from being a news anchor to ‘papparazi duty’ which absolutely baffled me. I couldn’t figure out if this was actually a thing but it sounds absolutely awful and it was pretty much meant to sound awful.

“Better depiction of a superhero than Man of Steel.”

Yes, I took yet another shot at Man of Steel. Two in one week. That’s a new record for me. The hero is able to act brave, heroic and also faces heroic dilemmas without being an asshole. He actually acts like he gives a crap about human life and the lives of his enemies. Go figure.

End Spoilers

The only complaint I have about this movie is that it feels just a little bit long in spots but it’s only about an hour and 50 minutes which isn’t too long. Mostly it was in spots where they released the tension to focus on character development. They probably could have done that less. Still, the movie is pretty epic and I definitely suggest you go watch it.


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