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.
Whoa! Keanu Reeves has been conspicuously absent from cinemas since his last big budget film The Day The Earth Stood Still which was released back in 2008. Since then he has been involved in a bunch of smaller B movies none of which most people have heard about. Does anyone seriously remember The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), Henry’s Crime (2010) or the amazingly titled, Generation Um…(2012)?
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.
Actor/Director/Writer/Composer RZA attempts to craft a loving homage to the chop-socky martial arts films of the late 1960s-early 1970s yet despite the array of talent involved the end product is a near absolute mess with humour that constantly misfires, zombie-like acting and miserably filmed action sequences. The plot is totally inconsequential but that is to be expected yet every attempt made to imbue the film with edgy coolness ends up instead grating to the point of abject pain so much so that many will feel compelled to either walk out of the cinema or ram their thumbs with disdain into their eye-sockets.
Consistently stylish as well as almost completely self-referential Taichi Zero has been advertised as being the first in a new breed of Kung-Fu movie that melds traditional narratives with modern sensibilities. Don’t believe the marketing. Taichi Zero nails its Michael Bay sensitivities well enough with an overabundance of slow motion and rapid fire editing but it is also saddled with a less than engaging narrative, wooden performances and a next to total lack of pace including a demoralizing third act that sucks the life out of the movie like a rabid vampire who hasn’t fed in centuries. Director/actor Stephen Fung tries the kitchen sink approach to filmmaking crafting a visually engaging yarn but his direction feels forced as if he made the erroneous decision that more equals better. It simply doesn’t jive and by the end of the film you can tell that Fung has long since run out of parlor tricks to captivate audiences leaving the film wallowing like a beached whale.