Blog Archives

Helios (2015)

After experiencing the boorish and juvenile jingoism of Wu Jing’s Wolf Warrior, I was looking forward to the new big budget HK movie, Helios… although I was a bit wary of the fact that its release date had been put back three times in the past six months. From directors Sunny Luk and Longman Leung (Cold War), Helios starts well but fades quickly.

The film opens with the theft of a South Korean manufactured nuclear dirty … (read more)

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Brotherhood of Blades (2014)

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Brotherhood of Blades is one of the best Chinese martial-arts films to have graced our cinema screens for quite some time. The movie boasts a volatile mix of quasi 17th century Chinese history, political paranoia and deadly palace conspiracies. With an individual emphasis on ornate film sets, power-crazed eunuchs, sadistic secret police and a trio of Ming Dynasty elite killers, there’s much here reminiscent of the best of the Shaw Brothers’ swordplay films.

The movie’s main focus is on the … (read more)

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The Grandmaster (2013)

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A solitary man in a white fedora weaves his way among dozens of nameless fighters as a silver rain cascades down around them. The slick street is illuminated by a single lamp, which casts off an ethereal glow. A blur of fists erupts and the bodies start to fall — elegantly in slow motion. We hear a comment that summarises the martial arts in two words: horizontal and vertical. Whoever remains standing, wins. The solitary man walks into the rain … (read more)

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Red Cliff (2009)

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When Cantonese director John Woo left Hong Kong for Hollywood in the mid-1990s, many people expected him to become one of the giants of world cinema. His American movies turned out to be, at best, problematic and his talent for combining strong human drama and rip-roaring action sequences was never fully realised. His most recent Hollywood film was Paycheck, I doubt in the history of American movies has a more apt title ever been given.

Two years ago, Woo … (read more)

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Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)

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It’s almost impossible to write about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon without using words like “grandeur”, “breathtaking”, and suchlike. The scenery positively demands it, without even starting on the film itself. Sweeping vistas over mountainous regions, wreathed in mist and clothed in vivid green, offer the sort of territory that is probably quite foreign to most of us. Ancient Chinese towns and cities, likewise, do a great job of transporting us into another time and another world. Clearly this film did … (read more)

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Three Times (2005)

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More accurately translated as ‘The Best of Times’, the latest picture from the most highly regarded formalist in world cinema is a delightfully structured and incredibly focused effort that breathes life into three very different moments in Taiwan’s past and present.

Three separate chapters bear the names of the broad topics that Hou pursues throughout the film: Love, Freedom and Youth. A lyrical romantic odyssey among smokey pool halls precedes a refined observation of national trauma as it is embodied … (read more)

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Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002)

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Remember Chinese New Year 2002? I know for some going back two whole years might be a bit of strain but let me help you: an unprecendented three [count ’em!] Chinese New Year comedies came out battling for the top spot. Chinese Odyssey 2002, Marry A Rich Man and Fat Choi Spirit. Although the idea of Tony Leung and Faye Wong being lovers in a period comedy lost in the box office stakes to Andy playing mahjong and … (read more)

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Betelnut Beauty (2000)

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This film falls squarely into the arthouse genre box, for those who like to pigeonhole their movies. For those who like to pigeonhole further, it could be categorised as “troubled urban youth meander through their lives at a gentle pace”.

It might be clear to some of you that I feel rather equivocal about this one. And it’s true: while I’ve heard many good things about this film, I couldn’t really throw myself into it. It began fairly well, with … (read more)

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