Blog Archives

Rise of the Legend (2014)

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A title like this one could be seen as either portentous or incredibly bland and the one-sentence synopsis on the back of the box doesn’t give much away. The major point of interest in Rise of the Legend sounds like it’s Sammo Hung playing the big bad, but it turns out this is actually a gritty origin story for the legendary Wong Fei-hung.

At the time of this film’s release another notable folk hero, Wing Chun master Ip Man, … (read more)

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Cold War (2012)

From the outset, Cold War is an ambitious effort. Its big budget execution sets a bar that the narrative tries – and in some respects fails – to achieve with its high-scale intrigue and cast of dozens. For a non-Chinese speaking audience it’s not the easiest thriller to follow (I couldn’t even guess at what it’s like for the Chinese speaking one), which detracts a little from the overall enjoyment of the tense and tightly paced drama.

To set the … (read more)

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Tai Chi Hero (2012)

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So, a month or so after Tai Chi 0 hit cinemas, its sequel has arrived: Tai Chi Hero, filmed back-to-back with its predecessor on a shared budget. Accordingly, most of what Rhys says in his review of the first film holds true for this one: it’s a 3D action-comedy-adventure film with a steampunk feel to the art direction, solid action choreography from action legend Sammo Hung, and some modern CGI crammed in for today’s effects-hungry audience.… (read more)

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Tai Chi 0 (2012)

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Tai Chi 0, the latest offering from actor-turned-director, Stephen Fung, is a throwback to period kung fu comedies from the early nineties. The film’s style steps away from the swordplay movies re-popularized in the west, towards the more simplistic kung fu genre. Avoiding supernatural themes, the film embraces an en vogue steampunk style; this time, hostility towards industrialization represents the typical anti-European sentiment familiar to the genre. Unfortunately, Tai Chi 0 is overcrowded by some CG comic book and … (read more)

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Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)

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Way back in my misspent youth (spent watching telly, mostly), there was one of those midday movies on the box that captured my imagination. Titled Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders, the film was, to my young mind, cheeky, fun, spooky, and a tantalising glimpse into a world I had never thought of: the China of over a thousand years ago.

Years later I stumbled across Barry Hughart’s terrific and delightful trilogy of novels of a China ‘that never … (read more)

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Bodyguards and Assassins (2009)

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I knew very little about Bodyguards and Assassins going into the theatre. I had heard a basic plot outline that could be described as ‘16 Blocks with a team of kung-fu fighters instead of Bruce Willis’. Having now seen the film I think that sentence does a disservice to the film.

B&A is set in 1906, British ruled, Hong Kong. Revolution is in the air with student protests and rebel groups finding their footing. With police and other forces … (read more)

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Eye In The Sky (2007)

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I sat down to watch Eye in the Sky at the 2007 Sydney Film Festival and overheard a conversation behind me from two older ladies, who’d evidently set up base camp in the State Theatre and were watching their way through the entire Festival program. “Where’s this one from?”, one asked. “Hong Kong.” “Oh, so there’ll be lots of flying around, then?”

Sigh. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has a lot to answer for. There’s no flying around at all(read more)

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Ashes of Time (1994)

As I see it, there have only been two rolled gold masterpieces of the Cantonese cinema since the late 1980s: John Woo’s bloodstained Vietnam odyssey Bullet in the Head and Wong Ka-Wai’s Ashes of Time. Both were produced within three years of each other and are poles apart in content and style, but they remain shining examples of a film industry at its peak.

Ashes of Time is based on a popular Chinese martial arts novel The Eagle Shooting (read more)

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