Director Ronny Yu’s Saving General Yang attempts to weave a traditional war story that focuses heavily on themes of familial loyalty amidst a roiling time in Ancient Chinese history when the throne was under siege from an invading barbarian horde. All the ingredients seem to be here including massive clashing CG armies, political gamesmanship and of course, emotionally wringing moments set to an appropriately moving soundtrack. Nevertheless, it all never really works as it should as the final product comes off as inherently bland with occasional bouts of extremely manufactured circumstances that really derail the film, especially as it enters its third act.
Beach Spike is a laughably bad film that will have audiences wondering if they can sue the production company for their money back. Yes, it’s not only THAT bad it’s much worse than you can ever imagine with a supremely toxic combination of lousy acting, a brutally inept script, boneheaded direction, abysmal cinematography and a total lack of understanding of the sport in which it attempts to portray. Seriously, avoid this movie as the stench will linger for days if not weeks.
I’m probably going to be in the minority here but Wilson Yip’s A Chinese Ghost Story remake of the 1987 classic of the same name, originally staring Joey Wong and Leslie Cheung, is more than a competent take on the tale that will achieve its primary goal – in bringing the story to a new generation of fans who, have no compunction to ever rent or buy a movie older than five years of age. That is not to say this new version is in any way better than the original but it does at least attempt to mix things up with a radical revision to the primary love story that puts a new spin on old material. Some will like it and others will rant at the dying of the light that this new version is sacrileges but they would be missing a decent tragic romance that at least is much more restrained than other recent fair that attempts emotional manipulation with the razor sharp skill of an abattoir butcher (I’m looking at you, The Sorcerer and the White Snake).
Unless a miracle happens Keanu Reeves will probably never win an Academy Award for Best Actor but if Man of Tai Chi proves anything it is that Reeves might have a different career path behind the camera once his wooden acting days are over. Reeves has never been considered as an acting giant but give the man some credit as his laid back attitude works depending on the material he is given. Man of Tai Chi has Reeves doing double duty playing the film’s major antagonist as well as being its director. Yes, this is his directorial debut and while it isn’t anything special there are a few hints that perhaps Reeves really has been paying attention to all the good directors he has had the pleasure of working with.
Stephen Fung’s follow-up to his highly anticipated yet ultimately disappointing Taichi Zero (2012) is actually a much better picture featuring not only a coherent story but also something the original lacked, namely better action sequences. Fung basically used the kitchen sink approach in the first film much to its detriment as the over-indulgence of self-referential material, excessive editing and tension-less fighting sequences did nothing but send the movie into the cinematic gutter. Taichi Hero (2012) is almost the exact opposite as Fung has jettisoned the altogether spastic style of the first installment and settled in to a more traditionally framed film and the result is a far better movie going experience albeit still far below the pre-release hype.
Supposedly Jackie Chan’s “last full-length action spectacle” Chinese Zodiac certainly marks the end of an era yet does Chan go out on a high note or does he embarrass himself silly? For the most part, Chinese Zodiac is a return to form that exemplified Chan’s Chinese movie output circa the 1980s and early 1990s before Rumble in the Bronx propelled him to make a slew of average Hollywood movies. This basically means that Chan has returned to making a lighthearted hokey film where the focus is clearly on innovative physical action sequences featuring Chan doing all his own stunts at the expense of plot, characterization and pace. At the same time Chinese Zodiac features one horrendous misfire by including a totally pompous and preachy morality angle where characters often lurch into long patriotic diatribes that have as much subtlety as a giant mallet to the face.
A modern reworking only very loosely based on the 1975 Shaw Brothers film this new installment of The Guillotines (2012) by director Andrew Lau is completely D.O.A. with a completely impenetrable patch-work plot, cardboard characters and a lack of guillotine-inspired action. Lau is no stranger to the action genre having helmed some of the biggest Hong Kong films of the past few decades including Young and Dangerous, The Storm Riders, A Man Called Hero and the entire Infernal Affairs trilogy making The Guillotines’ total lack of action acumen a mystery on the level of the location of the Lost Ark of the Covenant.
Treasure Hunter is a film so inept that it defies explanation and begs the eternal question, “What were they thinking?” It is almost as if the entire cast and crew got together at the start of production with one goal in mind to make a movie so abysmal that it would give eternal whipping boy Battlefield Earth a run for its money as one of, if not the worse, movie of all time. This is one of those films that leave a foul odour in its wake and all involved should be supremely embarrassed by the end product so shockingly dire that they should count themselves lucky if they ever are employed in the industry again.