Posts Tagged ‘Yu Xing’

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 The extensive wirework feels outdated and repetitive, frankly speaking it’s unimpressive, the way the action scenes are captured lacks verve and inspiration, the extensive use of doubles is too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.

 

 

 

 


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BLACK RANSOM [SEE PIU FUNG WAN | 撕票風雲]

2010/07/02

http://www.mvphk.biz/en/movies/index.html

http://www.facebook.com/gscmovies

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Keung Kwok-Man, Wong Jing  Written by: Wong Jing  Produced by: Wong Jing Cinematography: Keung Kwok-Man Editing: Lee Kar-Wing Music: Henry Lai  Cast: c, Kiu Wai Miu, Fala Chen, Andy On, Yang Liu, Tak-Bun Wong, Vincent Wong, Ying Qu, Hiromi Wada, Ada Wong, Yu Xing, Winnie Leung

A Wong Jing movie is with almost 100% certainty always a Wong Jing movie. No matter what you do, it is going to look and feel like a Wong Jing movie. I have respect for him for creating his own trademark movie style and recipe (less respect though for his copy-and-paste philosophy). That doesn’t mean that I like his movies. I seldom do, frankly speaking.

BLACK RANSOM is one of Wong Jing’s better efforts and clearly his best movie in 2010 so far (having said that he’ll probably produce another dozen movies or so until year-end). BLACK RANSOM is still a very typical movie however, and this time I realized that a Wong Jing movie doesn’t actually need a director. Consequently the cinematographer takes over the direction (with Wong Jing once again being the co-director). Trust me, you’ll not notice the difference.

I found the English title a bit puzzling, and even now I am not sure how ransom could be black or what black ransom really is. It probably just sounded meaty and dark; Wong Jing is a great marketer, and I actually believe that he usually comes up with a title first and then constructs the movie around it (see BEAUTY ON DUTY or FUTURE X-COPS). That would also explain why his movies usually lack structure, dramaturgy and character development: the only purpose is to translate the cool title onto the screen.

BLACK RANSOM deals with ex-cops kidnapping triad members for money so that they can give some of the ransom to charity and use the rest to finance further activities against the mob. They want real justice, as they believe that the legislative apparatus rules in favor of the bad guys. Simon Yam plays a detective who plays by the rules and is chasing them after they took another gangster hostage. Soon a tense duel between Yam and the leader of the bad guys begins.

If you want to see a great duel between two worthy antagonists better watch FIRE OF CONSCIENCE. BLACK RANSOM is trying very hard to imitate every action flick from Michael Mann to Dante Lam, but it ends up a poor copy of the originals. It’s like patchwork, borrowing here and there, gluing pieces together that don’t really fit together – as so often Wong Jing doesn’t create an original work of art, but an amalgamation of what others have invented before.

BLACK RANSOM is not really bad though, but I can’t say it’s a solid action movie either. It’s still substandard by comparison, lacking beef, consistency, good actors and a script that makes sense. Too many things are irrelevant here, are confusing or plain nonsense. Cut the crap out and you’re left with little more than 40 minutes of a so-so film.

BLACK RANSOM is a movie you have definitely seen many times before, just better. So I wouldn’t know a real reason you should watch it. If you have a choice, choose something else. Anything.

J.


IP MAN [YIP MAN | 葉問]

2010/05/09

http://www.ipman-movie.com/

HONG KONG 2008  Directed by: Wilson Yip Written by: Edmond Wong  Produced by: Raymond Wong Cinematography by: Sing-Pui O  Editing: Ka-Fai Cheung  Music: Kenji Kawai Cast: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Siu-Wong Fan, Ka Tung Lam, Yu Xing, You-Nam Wong, Chen Zhi Hui, Lynn Hung, Hiroyuki Ikeguchi, Yu-Hang To

In 2008 two attempts were made to bring the work and life of grandmaster Ip Man to the big screen: first prolific producer Raymond Wong announced his project, then Wong Kar Wai came out saying he had his own version of an Ip Man movie coming up soon. While Wong Kar Wai’s film remains in development hell until today, Raymond Wong went ahead producing the acclaimed epic finally simply called IP MAN after some title controversy.

The movie is set during the Sino-Japanese war in the 30’s: Foshan, originally a city bustling with martial arts schools of southern Chinese styles is soon being occupied by the Japanese army. The previously prosper Foshan declines and becomes a place in which disease and starvation are the norm. The martial arts schools are closed and the masters have to work in a coal mine to make a living. Occasionally the Japanese force them to fight against their own martial artists, and one day it’s Ip Man’s turn to take on the enemy in a life-and death martial arts duel.

IP MAN naturally takes its liberties with Ip Man’s biography, but who are we to judge right from wrong. What’s more important is that IP MAN is a rich, diverse and believable portrait of the Wing Chun grandmaster within the limitations of a martial art movie (we have to understand that IP MAN is not a biopic). Still there are so many ways in which you can enjoy the movie; IP MAN will most certainly stand the test of time and become a modern classic.

With Donnie Yen’s best acting so far and with another fabulous martial arts performance of his (which is even more notable bearing in mind he had to learn Wing Chun from ground up before shooting started) IP MAN succeeds in portraying Ip Man as a kind, skilled and dedicated person. Yen’s acting is very believable and I couldn’t think of anyone else to play the role better, or at all (unless you rewrite the role and omit all fighting). The rest of the ensemble is also well cast, which elevates IP MAN far above most other martial arts movies. From beginning to end you never have the feeling to watch a stunt show that requires just any story as an excuse for the fights, instead the movie is more than sincere in telling the life and times of Ip Man.

For all martial arts fans out there IP MAN should be a feast for the eyes, featuring various styles and fantastic action choreography by Sammo Hung. The fights are enormously dynamic and grim with wirework that supports the action and never overshadows the skills of the fighters.

If you are fond of history IP MAN is also an interesting account of the Japanese invasion: naturally the film is biased, but it never feels unjustified and in the end every great movie needs a great villain. IP MAN may have strong views in regard of the Japanese, but it’s not propaganda like many other films – for IP MAN history is a canvas upon which it paints its story.

Finally the movie shines when it comes to production value (I forgive the movie that the very first scene showing Foshan is very much revealing that these are studio facades), direction, editing and music. In short, it’s another outstanding Raymond Wong production.

IP MAN evokes memories of the good old days of Hong Kong cinema and gets as close as that is possible today to milestones like ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA. If all Hong Kong movies would have the virtues of IP MAN we would soon see a renaissance of Hong Kong cinema; unfortunately this is not the case.

For the time being IP MAN marks the pinnacle of contemporary Cantonese martial arts films with only one serious competitor in sight: IP MAN 2.

J.