Posts Tagged ‘Jackie Chan’

SHAOLIN a.k.a. THE NEW SHAOLIN TEMPLE [XIN SHAO LIN SI | 新少林寺]

2011/02/13

http://www.emp.hk/title.php?film_id=66

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Benny Chan  Written by: Chi Kwong Cheung, Cheung Tan, Alan Yuen  Produced by: Benny Chan, Albert Lee Cinematography by: Anthony Pun Editing by: Chi Wai Yau   Music by: Nicholas Errera  Cast: Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Bingbing Fan, Jackie Chan, Jacky Wu, Yu Xing, Xin Xin Xiong

Armies march, bullets fly, monks pray and fight, evil lords say evil things while Jackie Chan provides comic relief – all orchestrated by Benny KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE Chan.

SHAOLIN or THE NEW SHAOLIN TEMPLE is an update of Jet Li’s debut from 1982, but is mostly related by name and concept, not so much through storyline or characters. Released closely to Chinese New Year 2011 it is one of the less commercial almost-CNY-films, however tries to draw in the crowds with household names (Andy Lau, Jackie Chan et.al.) and big PR (concentrating on budgets, locations, stars etc.). So how did it turn out?

Let me answer this question by going into a few details. SHAOLIN is, in principle, supposed to be a martial arts movie, and I believe that is what most people who know the Jet Li film or any of the other Shaolin-themed flicks of the past decades expect. What sense does it make therefore to cast an ageing star and non-martial-artist (Lau) as the hero, an ageing martial arts star solely as comedian (Chan) and a few younger, more capable fighters as cannon fodder? None, right. Also, you wouldn’t expect SHAOLIN to be primarily an epic tale of rival warlords and the westernization of China, repeating pretty much what last year’s blockbusters have featured well enough. SHAOLIN pays relatively little attention to Shaolin, the monks and the martial arts heritage, instead loses itself in confusing plot threads, personal feuds and vaguely developed characters who mostly contribute nothing to the development of the story, which by the way would work quite as well without the Shaolin.

As expected, Benny Chan’s direction has no focus, resulting in a movie that seems randomly assembled, with various units filming all kinds of scenes and a failed attempt to patch things together. One again Mr. Chan proves to be a stranger to coherence as much as a stranger to the more traditional martial arts cinema, as well as having little eye for details. The extensive wirework feels outdated and repetitive, frankly speaking it’s unimpressive, the way the action scenes are captured lacks verve and inspiration, the extensive use of doubles is too obvious and many special effects seem out-of-place. What I found most lackluster is the fight choreography, as the film passes by without a single original idea to beef up the action. And the training sequences of the monks are a bit funny to watch, as their positions and movements never seem aligned correctly – the choreography of any Lady Gaga show is more precise than those training sequences.

Thematically, SHAOLIN is by the book, featuring ideas like brotherhood, hierarchy, code of honor, love, trust and betrayal in A-Z order, ticking off one by one from the must-have-ingredients list. The most remarkable message of the film, especially bearing in mind that Chinese New Year was around the corner, is that materialism and pursuit of money shouldn’t be our main goals in life (SHAOLIN doesn’t really answer the question what should be instead, though). So in light of the ever money-centered CNY SHAOLIN tries to make a point, but I am not sure if the audience will really get it or mostly miss the one or two respective lines of dialogue by Andy Lau’s character.

I don’t know what others have seen in SHAOLIN, but as far as I am concerned SHAOLIN is an exceptionally uninteresting film, a whopping two hours of boredom, a revue of incoherent scenes and plot threads leading nowhere, a mixed bag of whatever sprung the makers’ minds. What were they thinking? Armies march, bullets fly, monks pray and fight, evil lords say evil things while Jackie Chan provides comic relief.

J.

 

 

 

 


Advertisements

THE LAST AIRBENDER

2010/07/09

http://www.thelastairbendermovie.com/

USA 2010  Directed & Written by: M. Night Shyamalan Produced by: Scott Aversano, Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer, M. Night Shyamalan  Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie  Editing: Conrad Buff IV  Music: James Newton Howard Cast: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis

We have seen all kinds of rip-offs of all kinds of movies in our lives. Bad me-too movies are ten-a-penny, but few are quite as insulting as THE LAST AIRBENDER. People might have a short memory, often times they even enjoy the familiar, but M. Night Shyamalan obviously thinks we’ve all had brain surgery in 2009 so that he’d get away with his pathetic piece of patchwork.

I don’t want to discuss the intentionality of Shyamalan’s theft, but it’s unforgivable, any which way. Open the juice blender and fill it with the following ingredients: THE NEVERENDING STORY, THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, THE KARATE KID and every other Jackie Chan movie since CRIME STORY, the original STAR WARS trilogy, 2012 and every other Roland Emmerich film since INDEPENDENCE DAY, add on top of all that the poorest special effects and worst fight choreography possible. Then, close the lid, press start and voila, out comes THE LAST AIRBENDER – a derivative, not a tasty blend.

I do not really care much for the TV Series; in any case the movie has to stand on its own feet. I found the cast not exactly likeable, starting with that Airbender kid. Then, there’s no time for character development, so all characters feel like Mattel action figures. The dialogues are mostly quotes from other movies, or merely adaptations of those quotes. And the story is an outright jumble (surprise, given that Shyamalan is squeezing dozens of “inspirations” into the 100+ minutes of THE LAST AIRBENDER).

The TV series might appeal to kids for certain reasons, but it’s beyond me why anyone who’s passed puberty would care about a kid bending air (or water, or earth, or a spoon, or dog poo). Ultimately, the whole air-bending trick has no point. Save the world, destroy the world, father, mother, master, disciple, heir or slave, what an incredible lot of senseless information and unfinished plot threads we are supposed to deal with.

Maybe THE LAST AIRBENDER is just going with the times, following the business model of large corporations that outsource a large part of their own responsibilities to the customers (e.g. fast-food-chains, self-service franchises and DIY businesses like IKEA who effectively earn from consumers being so stupid as to think that DIY is fun when in fact it’s the responsibility of those who make you believe that it’s your job, not theirs). Consequently, THE LAST AIRBENDER leaves it to the audience to make sense out of its nonsense, outsourcing creativity and all rational efforts instead of holding the scriptwriter and director accountable.

So thanks, but no thanks. We all appreciate movies that involve and stimulate, but that doesn’t extend to this incomprehensible mess that leaves us utterly bored. THE LAST AIRBENDER is not a movie, it’s a con.

J.


THE KARATE KID a.k.a. THE KUNG FU KID

2010/06/21

http://www.karatekid-themovie.com/

USA / CHINA 2010   Directed by: Harald Zwart Written by: Christopher Murphey (screenplay), Robert Mark Kamen (story) Produced by: James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Ken Stovitz, Jerry Weintraub  Cinematography: Roger Pratt  Editing: Joel Negron  Music: James Horner  Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Rongguang Yu, Zhensu Wu, Zhiheng Wang, Zhenwei Wang

We shouldn’t ever wonder why certain movies are remade. The answer is simple: cash. Cashing in on the popular, the familiar, time and time again. Why invent a new story if you can just earn millions of dollars with an old one.

I have never been a fan of the original movie, but it was too tempting to see what kind of film THE KARATE KID 2010 would turn out to be. Co-financed by the Smiths, starring their own kid, with Jackie Chan as biggest pull factor, the man who lately rather associates himself with works like LITTLE BIG SOLDIER than conventional martial arts flicks.

THE KARATE KID just as the original is more about the relationship between the master and his young disciple than it is about fighting. Of course fighting for honor is the main reason for them getting together, but without real good chemistry between the two characters as well as the actors THE KARATE KID would be nothing.

Disregard the reasons to remake the story THE KARATE KID works very well, judging it for what it is or aims to be. The story about friendship and learning from each other is written, played and directed as good as one can expect from an American mainstream movie (I’d agree with Roger Ebert this far). It is surprising to see that Jaden Smith is not just in it because of his name: he is a good choice for the role. Also it’s fun to see Jackie Chan in another “acting” role as his martial arts teacher.

THE KARATE KID is not going to win prizes for its choreography, fighting sequences or the way it portraits Chinese culture and people. It may win over the hearts of western multiplex audiences, but other than that it’s an extremely unrealistic film of sort. What many writers like Ebert have not taken into account is a perspective other than a western one.

From the point of view of a Chinese or even a broader Asian audience THE KARATE KID is full of clichés, makes all Chinese look evil (except Chan and some kids who become friends at the ends) and generally shows no sensitivity for cultural diversity (that even goes for the way the Americans are shown in the movie). Starts with the misleading title (no karate in here; that’s why in Asia the movie will be released as KUNG FU KID) and ends with only two characters having more than one dimension to them (one of them being Chan who has already been absorbed by the American mainstream as one of their own (you know, that funny Asian dude)). Not to mention the way gender stereotypes are exploited (men fight for the “chicks”, the girls’ only job is to smile and wave). Horrible.

If you accept THE KARATE KID purely as a story about very different people becoming friends and gaining respect for each other the movie is doing fine job. If however a more realistic and accurate portrayal of different cultures, their beliefs, thinking and attitude is of importance to you, THE KARATE KID isn’t your dish. Despite its title the movie is as unAsian as Chop Suey*.

J.

*Yeah, we know, it’s actually not that American either, but let’s just stick to what’s widely believed here.