Double Feature: Chasing the Dragon (2017) & Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Welcome back to the next double feature! Its been a while, right? I’ll try to be better…I guess I was more burnt out from writing reviews that even I could imagine. Overall, I’m just feeling mostly burned out and not in the mood for writing lately but I’m slowly getting back on track.

With that said, no specific reason when I first chose these two together but the banners are looking like there is a versus vibe to it. ūüėČ This double feature is 2017 Hong Kong film Chasing the Dragon starring Donnie Yen and Andy Lau, which had its wave of popularity when it was announced and released in Hong Kong (judging from Facebook activity) and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, a DC film that I honestly didn’t care too much about to begin with but it was going to leave Netflix and I just went for it, hoping that low expectations might make it a little more entertaining. One high hopes and one low expectations, lets see how they truly fare, right?

Chasing the Dragon (2017)

Chasing the Dragon

Director: Jason Kwan, Jing Wong, Aman Chang

Cast: Donnie Yen, Andy Lau, Philip Keung, Wilfred Lau, Kang Yu, Kent Cheng, Bryan Larkin, Ben Ng, Ken Tong, Dongdong Xu

An illegal immigrant from Mainland China sneaks into corrupt British-colonized Hong Kong in 1963, transforming himself into a ruthless and emerging drug lord. – IMDB

Chasing the Dragon is said to be based on a true story of real life gangster, Ng Sek-ho and also a remake of the 1991 film, To Be Number One. I don’t know much about the history and I don’t think I’ve seen that movie before so I have no idea how it compares. However, Chasing the Dragon is a good one. Its a bit different from how you would normally perceive in a movie solely focused in Donnie Yen’s fighting abilties.

In this one, he plays the gangster Crippled Ho who while has one or two really good fight scenes, he spends most of it being a triad leader. For audience who don’t speak Chinese, it is a pity because the achievement here is how Donnie Yen takes over the character and nails this really fantastic accent while not making it sound goofy but still manage to feel threatening especially since the movie is set in characters sitting in grey areas. On one hand, there’s a lot of bad that has happened and it feels like Crippled Ho was pushed into the situation and we can’t help but to fight for his escape and Andy Lau (the awesome actor that he is) plays Lee Rock, a corrupted cop who will do anything to be number one and finds his support with Lee Rock. You can see where his grey area is because he becomes fairly ruthless.¬†Their appearances are aided a lot by an even more evil cast by Bryan Larkin as Hunt, an arrogant and even more ruthless British cop who is the top dog and feels threatened by Lee Rock’s promotion. This guy is scripted in such a¬† way that makes him so hard to like, and it was the intent.

Chasing the Dragon is very much a Hong Kong film and rather meant for a Chinese speaking audience. Be it the way the movie is and how the language, especially the slang nature of Cantonese can get lost in translation easy. The successes of the film also rely on various elements that rely on understanding why Donnie Yen is so convincing in his role. I’m not sure that if I was just reading subtitles and not totally understanding some of the history (the little bit that I know), how it would changed my enjoyment for it. There are some pacing issues and some rather forced bits possibly over-dramatized. While its a pretty good film, its definitely not the best. It met my expectations but I have to say that might have to do with my respect for both of these actors as well as the great supporting cast that was on screen.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. – IMDB

Let’s make it really clear that I haven’t seen Man of Steel so I don’t know what happened to make Batman so angry except for the little recap snippet in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As I said before, my expectations for this one wasn’t high. My difference here is just that I¬† didn’t feel convinced about this film from the trailer. I have no issue with Ben Affleck as Batman, maybe a tiny issue with Henry Cavill as Superman, mostly because I haven’t seen a movie he has done that I like. The issue with the film might not exactly be the cast because they are all great actors and do a pretty good job. Where this film falls apart is its length which made the pacing so horrible. The story itself falls apart and is flat out boring. It never feels like much happens. There’s some stealthy useless stealing scene, Wonder Woman gets in the way, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor does his crazy act and then takes them down a notch from their high superhero ways and they put aside from issues and team up to fight him. Not exactly a riveting story in my mind but some basic stuff with a lot of padding in between. I wonder if its because I haven’t seen Man of Steel that I don’t have that connection with Superman so I don’t have any stake in how much I care about his making it out of this or not. But the movie itself just wasn’t good because it was boring and at times, felt so pointless.

Either way, not one that I’ll go visit. So far, the top DC film out of the two (and a tenth of Man of Steel) that I’ve seen is definitely¬† Wonder Woman (review). Not in a hurry to catch up with the DC films just yet. I had low expectations and this one possibly even went a bit lower than that.

Fantasia Festival 2018: Big Brother (World Premiere 2018)

Big Brother (2018)

Big Brother

Director: Ka-Wai Kam

Cast: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Yu Kang, Mingji Lou, Fung Woo

Big Brother is an unexpected title in Donnie Yen‚Äôs filmography however, also one that he has been wanting to do. It is about education and sending the positive message that everyone can follow their dreams even those left behind and ignored by the very competitive Hong Kong education system. It only takes an honest and passionate educator to go beyond their duties to make sure their students go back on the right path. Playing as Mr. Chen, Yen‚Äôs role is one that marries the sparse but exciting action scenes that we have come to expect with a more profound dramatic moments focussing specifically on five of the students considered the losers in the ‚Äúbad‚ÄĚ class. His heartfelt performance has some comedic moments especially in the unorthodox way of teaching which fits incredibly well to this out of the box character.

Big Brother

While there are some cameo and supporting roles with more seasoned actors and actresses especially the Taiwanese actress Joe Chen as one of the teachers and Fung Woo as the ex-principal in an inspiring role as well, the five young actors are all first time actors. This decision is a smart one to keep their stories feel real and genuine.  While some of the stories feel dramatized for the movie, the reality is that in the Hong Kong society, their stories are common: alcoholic dad; Hong Kong born Pakistani origins; daughters feeling less important than sons and the high risk of the triad preying on high school students to get them to do their dirty work. For these young cast, they did a great job at each of their respective roles as they each had their own dreams which broke the barrier of the expectations of where they are from.

Big Brother

A lot of praise does have to go to assistant director turned director Ka-Wai Kam as he steps into the director’s chair a fourth time with this project. It is obvious that he has a lot of experience tucked away with the way he maneuvers his shots to capture the moments. He finds a way to add in the action seamlessly to a more dramatic film while not forgetting the focal point of reflecting how a flawed education system breeds the issues that are occurring and puts its focus on a few members to give these characters their well-deserved development and never making them feel disposable. Not to mention, the scenes itself speak for themselves and how these vibrant characters have connected with its audience.

World premiering at Fantasia Festival a whole two and a half weeks before its release in Hong Kong, Big Brother brings both heartwarming and heartbreaking stories about some very real and human everyday life aspects of the Hong Kong education system, the criticism towards its teachers and the society views of it all.  Add this to your collection of inspirational education movies like Freedom Writers, Big Brother might have some societal barriers to understand some of the finer details but its heart to bring a positive message and highlight the flaws in the current education system is one that needs to be addressed. It takes one person willing to go above and beyond to make a difference. It’s perfectly suitable for Donnie Yen. Big Brother is a positively inspiring movie that manages to tug at your heartstrings and cheer for following your dreams and paying it forward.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017)

If you have seen my Top 10 Anticipated Movies ¬†of 2017 here, you will realize that I don’t have a lot of popular choices but at least the beginning of the year is mostly fun sequels. Does that mean they are bad? I actually embrace movies that are in the cheesy and so bad its awesome category, embrace fun and action filled movies and from what I remember of xXx. That is exactlt what I would expect from this third one especially since Vin Diesel reprises his role as Xander Cage and his on screen presence is just simply awesome. Full transparency, I have seen xXx two times. The review is HERE. However, I have not seen the sequel with Ice Cube. Whether you call it a reboot or a sequel, I’m just excited to see Vin Diesel jump back into this role. I’m going to lie if after fifteen years, Xander Cage can still be revived without any disappointments but with the cast they have, its hard to not be impressed and excited.

Let’s check it out!

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2017)

xxx the return of xander cage

Director: DJ Caruso

Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Kris Wu, Rory McCann, Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping, Samuel L Jackson

The third explosive chapter of the blockbuster franchise that redefined the spy thriller finds extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) coming out of self-imposed exile and on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora’s Box. – Rotten Tomatoes

For those who haven’t seen the first xXx, you honestly don’t really ¬†need to know much about it. The Return of Xander Cage, other than Xander Cage and the one appearance of his fluffy coat that shows up and super little tidbits on Samuel L. Jackson recruiting another agent in a restaurant (when he recruited Xander Cage from a diner), there really isn’t much crossover. That in itself, is good. One thing to remember going into xXx is that you don’t go into this for a strong storyline. I will talk about the storyline and what criticisms a serious movie goer may have with it (because I am fully aware of its flaws). With all that said, I had a great time watching xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. As much as it sounds like this movie is right up my alley, I like xXx but I’m not a die hard fan. However, this one was fun and thrilling (and probably my fave of the franchise thus far). The stunts were great because Xander Cage is a daredevil who loves risky and daring stunts. It has an amazing cast which gave it so much personality and charm and of course, action. Not to mention, despite having an unpopular sequel without Vin Diesel but replaced by Ice Cube as Darius Stone, they never forget that he was also part of the franchise.

xXx The Return of Xander Cage

Right from the opening scenes, I already knew this is my sort of movie because its fun. The style of introducing its characters and fun facts was humorous to give us an idea who this person is and fills in on people who didn’t watch the two movie before that was over ten years ago. There was a lot of upbeat music that meshed with the scene especially giving it more reason when the dj of the group, Nicks (Kris Wu) joins in the xXx team. They also go through a lot of locations and its really beautiful. All this is aside from the fun dialogue we get which reflects who these characters are. Before we jump into the characters, I said I would talk about storyline and its flaws. Much like you could point out all the flaws in the last few Fast and Furious franchise, they probably also apply here. Be it a storyline that is pretty linear or plot twists that are rather predictable or even over the top things like submerging a motorcycle underwater and it still works after it resurfaces. The storyline is only a means of everything they can pull off, be it stunts or guns or encounters.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

xXx characters aren’t exactly deep, but calling them shallow makes me feel kind of bad also. However, they aren’t meant to be wildly constructed, just like its storyline. It really isn’t the point. These are agents and it wasn’t meant to have unnecessary drama (which might be one of the criticisms I remember having for one of The Expendable films, maybe the second one). We know the basics of their competency and the witty, quirky or completely eccentric personalities. Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is the man here who has a lot of personality and he has built a great team. Donnie Yen plays Xiang, who has a fantastic entrance showing off his great martial arts skills and what starts off as a rickety role turns out to be a really fun time as we learn more about who he is. Toni Collette pulls off a stern vibe in the high leader or government somebody perhaps. Her role is a little odd at times but it is to offset or at least is there for Xander to be recruited and challenge the authority. Xander Cage’s team is the more highlighted factor here and aside from him and Donnie Yen, breathe an incredible amount of life, character and charm.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

Ruby Rose plays Adele Wolff, a sharp shooter who has masters her sniper skills with a lot of calm and fun attitude. Nina Dobrev plays Becky, the tech support and pretty much the brains of the operations who is scared of pretty much everything outside and she has a massive fan girl moments with Xander that is hilarious and says really awkward and random things. Its also nice to see that there’s more to her career than The Vampire Diaries (especially because I do like TVD). We’ve already talked about the casual fun-time Nicks who is the showstopper or perhaps the person who causes the distraction but he is well-matched with Tennyson, played by Rory McCann, who is a stunt driver always looking for his next crash. They make a hilarious duo. On the other hand, Xiang’s team consists of some competent players as well although they don’t get as much of attention. The pretty lady with lots of combat skills is Serena, played by Deepika Padukone. Along with her and Xiang are Talon, played by Tony Jaa, an odd character that does weird things to say the least (which I like his fighting skills but not so much the character or maybe the limited acting) and Hawk, played by Michael Bisping, who I assumed was some sort of MMA/UFC fighter in real life and turns out he is (because I don’t follow these things so I had to look it up). The deal with having lots of characters in not a long runtime is that not everyone gets the screen time they need but it also gives the audience a good idea, if there was a sequel who might be the returning team.

Overall, you don’t go to xXx for an award-winning life-changing movie experience, you go into this movie to just have fun and be entertained and maybe shut off your brain for a little while. Have a few laughs, watch some great stunts and awesome fight sequences, listen to some cheesy one-liners and bask in the badassery that these characters and Xander Cage’s team is all about. Sure, it might seem a little Fast and the Furious franchise with the bad ass team and over the top sequences or maybe its a little The Expendables, with the whole “retired” agent coming back to action or whatever you’d like to call it just with a younger cast, but The Return of Xander Cage has its own personality. Whether the revival of this franchise works or not, this is an awesome addition to the franchise and captures the right tone and adds lots of style to it. It delivered everything I expected and more. Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Nina Dobrev, Ruby Rose was enough for me to love it so much. Everyone else meshing well with the movie just made it even better.

Have you seen xXx: The Return of Xander Cage?

Fantasia Fest 2015: Kung Fu Killer (2014)

Fantasia Festival is one of the times of year that I love. As mentioned before, 11 movies lined up this year. Last year, my Hong Kong selection was the last movie in the lineup. It feels like I unintentionally flipped it around because this year, my Hong Kong selection kicks off the festival. Its definitely a good thing. Especially with a two movie night on the first day.

The most unexpected part is that the lineup was intense. Its really intense for a Chinese movie. The most packed I’ve been to it. Maybe it has to do with Donnie Yen being our main guy in this crime thriller called Kung Fu Killer. ¬†I’m a huge fan of Donnie Yen and I’ve seen almost every movie that he’s been in. ¬†This one boasts that its all about martial arts, so I’m totally down for it ūüôā

Let’s check it out!

Kung Fu Killer (2014)

(also called: Kung Fu Jungle)

kung fu killer

Director: Teddy Chan

Cast: Donnie Yen, Baoqiang Wang, Charlie Yeung, Michelle Bai, Alex Fong, Deep Ng, Kang Yu, Xing Yu, Siu-Wong Fan

Three years ago, martial arts instructor for the police force Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) accidentally kills an opponent in a duel and confesses his crime right away.  This lands him with a five year sentence.  When a man is found dead by brutal force in a suspicious way, Mo does everything possible to offer up his knowledge to help the police.  In exchange, they have to let him out.  Reluctantly, Detective Luk (Charlie Yeung) recruits his help as they track down the killer who is targeting the top martial arts masters and challenging them to a duel to death.  Will Mo be able to stop the killer before too many lives are lost?

Kung Fu Killer

Right from the very cool opening scene with credits, Donnie Yen is not only the main lead but the action director of Kung Fu Killer.  That is as promising as it can get for a movie which focuses on the true essence of martial arts, reaching for the roots.  The best way to approach this review is to look at step by step.  If you go to this movie, what are you expecting? For me, phenomenal martial arts and action sequences.  If you look at the actors recruited for even the short roles of the martial arts masters here, they are all deeply rooted in various aspects of martial arts.  With the right cast, this movie speaks with the authenticity of the arts which is there whether we venture into the world of boxing, kicking, grappling, or weapons.  It touches on all of it.  Every action scene is tense and thriller to watch even if you can predict the outcome. On top of that, trying to stay traditional with the arts, it still knows how to add creativity to the scenes to make it as original and breathtaking, especially that last battle.

Kung Fu Killer

Kung Fu Killer has a solid enough story to carry it through. ¬†It also carries a few meaningful messages about what the essence of martial arts, how to keep control over your emotions and remembering your responsibilities and staying honorable. ¬†It can even carry the message that life is about the choices you make, about finding that balance to treat something as an art and not a killing device. ¬†All very relevant to action movies like this which leans toward a more violent side with a brutal and vicious villain like Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang). ¬†The bad guy here, Fung, is a peculiar one. ¬†A part of me doesn’t quite buy his act but there is no doubt that his character was scripted to be a maniac, a martial arts crazed maniac who is all about the ancient methods of his training to become No.1 that its become an obsession. ¬†For that part, this guy does a really good job. ¬†He’s a bit of an unpredictable goof in his expressions and whatnot but he has mad martial arts skills that he gets to show off as he fights each opponent.

Kung Fu Killer

But, as brilliant as some of the casting decisions were in the fighting domain. ¬†Props goes out to Michelle Bai who shows off some stellar sword fighting abilities, I wasn’t so excited about our main actress here playing Detective Luk by Charlie Yeung. ¬†Don’t get me wrong. ¬†I like Charlie Yeung as a soft docile girl. ¬†Something about her doesn’t pull off that tough lady cop thing really well. ¬†Plus, the theatre laughed a lot at the dialogue, especially hers. ¬†I don’t know if it was like they were liking it or not but for me, something felt like it was missing. ¬†She just didn’t seem commanding enough for that role. While I’m at the dialogue, this one has some pretty bad script in general. ¬†I’m not saying anyone really cares but I didn’t need to read subtitles but when I did catch a glimpse of it, I kind of giggled a little at it because watching it was already a little laugh out loud but those subtitles. ¬†But then, there aren’t all that many lines. I was there for the action part of it. If I had to be nitpicky, there was a scene or two of bad CGI and then one particular scene that I swore I saw the wire during a battle. So really, just little flaws here and there. Plus, they offset it by putting Alex Fong in here even if its just a small Police Chief Inspector role. ¬†I loved this guy when he used to do TV series and he makes a great cop. Okay, need to turn off the fangirl mode.

Overall, Kung Fu Killer isn’t meant to be a cinematic masterpiece. ¬†It carries a decent and rather simple story that brings in the essence of the battle in martial arts. ¬†The tribute of martial arts gives it a variety of fighting skills and with the stakes of death being the final result, every fight is high intense and thrilling to watch. ¬†Most of the cast was done perfectly, especially getting actual actors trained in martial arts, there was just one casting choice I wasn’t fully convinced worked to this film’s advantage. ¬†However, even though the dialogue was not exactly great, I was there for some mind-blowing action sequences and that delivered all the way!

Have you seen Kung Fu Killer? Are you fan of Donnie Yen and/or martial arts?

Check back tomorrow for the review of the second movie at Fantasia that I saw and a creature feature from Ireland called The Hallow!

Toronto Finds (Take 3) and more!

This week just started and its been pretty awesome!

I went really chill with Toronto and managed to survive the weekend, eating/drinking and shopping for about $250, which is absolutely amazing, seeing as I used to easily spend double that amount. ¬†I’ve tamed myself a bit ūüôā My self-control was in full mode.

Still, I think I managed to get some good stuff…

First up, lets check out MOVIES!

Movies!

Movies!

I snuck in my Les Miserable 25th anniversary soundtrack. ¬†They were on sale at Pacific Mall so I grabbed World War Z and Pain and Gain Blu-ray. I already saw World War Z and if you’re interested, you could check out the review HERE! As for other movies, last time in September, I had wanted Unbeatable but they weren’t available yet. ¬†This time, I managed to get it. ¬†Special ID is the new Donnie Yen movie (YAY!) and Floating City was the buffer to make the deal look better and I realized that Netflix just added it. ¬†Feels a bit like a fail but thats okay. ¬†Ending off is one of my long time faves that I’ve been wanting to add to my collection and Costco in Ontario had it for a decent price: Anne of Green Gables ūüôā No one does Anne as well as Megan Follows.

Next up, Costco also had some pretty awesome deal on books so I grabbed these ones!

Books!

Books!

I’m a mega fan of ¬†Amy Tan. The Joy Luck Club is one of my most favorite books and even the movie wasn’t such a bad one, in my opinion, but I haven’t seen it in ages. I will though, then I’ll review it. ¬†As for Jodi Piccoult, I loved My Sister’s Keeper so I thought I’d give this one a chance. ¬†I’ve read some good reviews of it.

Hmm…I actually think thats all I bought, other than a bunch of food that I ended up eating before taking any pictures. ¬†It was mostly Dim Sum from T&T Supermarket and some Egg rolls. ¬†Groceries, you know? I’m sure you don’t need to see that!

If I ended it here, this would be kind of a pathetic post so I figured I’d share some of my surprisingly quick arrivals ūüôā

The first is something that I had bought on Groupon for a Photobook and I managed to finish it right before the deadline! It didn’t come with a lot of long hours looking through pictures and making hard choices for the layout. ¬†It was supposed to be a surprise gift for my boyfriend, but he’s way more decisive than I am, so I asked him to help me and that really sped up the process!

Photobook cover

Photobook cover

Random inside pages

Random inside pages

Excuse my messy desk and all those newspaper snippets my mom likes to stick under the glass on my table! I’d say it looks pretty cool! The pages all of different layouts and pictures, its pretty ¬†much the highlights of all our trips: summer vacations, day trips, weekend getaways, for the past 5+ years of our relationship. ¬†I actually dug out a lot of pictures that I completely forgot I had and we had a good laugh while putting it together. ¬†Fun times ūüôā That flew from Malaysia (according to DHL tracking) to here in just a matter of days, arriving on Friday (but I was out of town) so I got it on Monday.

Next up, yesterday’s one delivery turned into TWO! WHAT?!?!?!? Apparently all those random things I get over the months all came one by one. I had bought speakers from Groupon for my cellphone since I enjoy listening to music when I shower or work around the house, plus, its light and portable.

Veho Speakers

Veho Speakers

I listened to it for a bit and it seems pretty decent. ¬†For the price I got it at, I wasn’t expecting anything grand and it turned out alright. ¬†Always a plus!

I also ordered a shirt from These Quiet Sounds, which is also a clothing company owned by one of the Boyce Avenue brothers, Fabian. ¬†I was curious a few weeks ago and went to check out the site and totally fell in love with this tank top! BUTTERFLIES ūüôā

These Quiet Sounds Tank Top

These Quiet Sounds package

These Quiet Sounds tank top

Here’s what it looks like!

I LOVE IT! I was a bit nervous because the fabric they used usually makes me look fat but hey, it looks pretty decent to me. ¬†Maybe it was the 400 crunches I did before I tried it on, but I’m going to take the positive side of this: I probably toned my body up. ¬†Just have to make sure I keep doing it, right?

See, the post didn’t turn out to be that pathetic, right? I actually have one more package that should be on its way for a Kickstarter project. ¬†After that, everything will calm down as I prep for Christmas gifts and crafts. ¬†Then it’ll be my turn to send things out! Plus, I have to try to keep all expenses minimal…I’ll do a big reveal in December after the Nanowrimo November craze has passed!

Things are going back to some form of normality! I do have a movie review going up soonish, maybe tomorrow, maybe later today. I have a few movies on Netflix expiring on December 1st so I have to get those watched: Dead Silence, Children of Men & Martha Marcy May Marlene. Whether I get all those watched, I have no idea but I’ve read some positive reviews each of them so I’m going to try my best to see them all. ¬†3 movies in 10 days sounds very doable in my mind at least.

Okay! I’m done rambling on!¬†

Any of the three, you’d suggest me to see more than the others? How’s your Nanowrimo going? Do you like to support Kickstarter projects? Have you started thinking about Christmas gifts already?

Wu Xia/Dragon (2011)

Missing those foreign flicks! My boyfriend and I got into the Donnie Yen mood and we kind of just shelved this after I bought it in Toronto. What better time to watch it, right? Donnie Yen is always fun to watch!

wu xia posterDirector: Peter Chan

Cast: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Wei Tang, Yu Wang, Kara Hui

Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen) is a married man who lives in a small village and works for the paper making companies there with his wife and two sons. ¬†When two escaped convicted criminals arrive in town and threaten the shopkeeper, miraculously Jinxi, in self-defense managed to single-handedly take them down. ¬†This leads the investigator Xu Bai-jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to suspect that Jinxi is more than he seems, especially that he is hiding extremely well-controlled martial arts that has only been seen in 3 other escaped criminal cases in the past. ¬†Afterwards, he continues to follow and observe Jinxi’s every move, this not only causes Jinxi’s wife, Ah Yu (Wei Tang) to wonder about her husband’s mysterious past but also peaks the interest of a deadly criminal gathering in the area lead by a very powerful Master (Yu Wang) who wants to get back his most promising member, Tang Long.

wu xia liu jinxi

Donnie Yen has quickly risen to be one of my favorite action stars in Hong Kong. ¬†His films usually revolve around some fantastic action sequences and in most, he also does the action directing. ¬†Dragon is a very well-made action flick. ¬†Its not about a famous person in the past like his famous Ip Man biopics. ¬†However, in this one, we give him some emotional burden as a man thats trying to turn good. ¬†If you have watched some of Peter Chan’s movies, you will also know that this has his signature all over it. ¬†That is a very good thing. ¬†There is enough foreshadowing in it so that you can actually know or derive what the story will turn out to be, but there is always some that surprises the audience. ¬†Plus, they filmed in a really nice area…in mainland China is my guess…exactly where, I’d have to research but some scenes are crazy beautiful!

wu xia xu baijiu

Lots of people know that I like Donnie Yen, but I have been a long-time fan of Takeshi Kaneshiro. ¬†This actor has done some pretty good movies and usually or mostly big productions. ¬†He’s been part of a lot of the ones thats hit international, which is also why his name is fallen off my radar for a bit. ¬†The last movie I saw of his is 2005’s Perhaps Love also directed by Peter Chan. This guy even was the inspiration of the character in Onimusha, a Playstation 2 game ;). ¬†Yeah, I’m a nerd, I admit it! (But you all knew that already) He’s serious and a little weird as the character of Xu Bai Jiu but he does it in a such a captivating way. ¬†It made me want to focus to understand what is going through his mind, whether there was something more to what he was thinking.

wu xia yu tang

Our group of criminal gang who are all kick-ass martial artists brings in the whole action element to another level. ¬†It does happen rather later as the final sequence as the movie climax. Yu Wang was quite the big star back in the days of Shaw Brothers productions. ¬†I had just talked about the SB movies the other day when reading a post by Forgotten Films on a review on one of the martial arts movies which didn’t star Yu Wang (its an awesome post and you can check it out HERE). ¬†This guy is pretty much the “bad guy”. ¬†But I’m still a bit confused as to whether he is considered that. ¬†He just gets hardcore and extreme in his ways, and maybe slightly on the crazy. ¬†However, he is a scary man. ¬†I have to admit to that so very effective in this role.

wu xia wai ying hung

Now, that is a scary look. ¬†Kara Hui has more of a cameo in this film BUT, she is also one of my most favorite actresses in the business. ¬†Mostly because I’ve grown to love her constantly in Hong Kong TV series in more ancient times doing some sort of martial arts or whatnot. She’s always plays the good person roles. ¬†She sides with the righteous side. ¬†This one she went all out and was totally bad! She was like a killing machine!

This is a pretty amazing movie. ¬†Its not just a martial arts/action movie but its also a bit of a mystery as it unravels before the eyes of Takeshi Kaneshiro’s character, and also a drama. ¬†It is these three elements combined that make this into a really intriguing story that brings out the character development and hidden back story. ¬†It also ties in a little bit of educational material on acupressure points and acupuncture and the essence of how with the advance knowledge of this, it can be a deadly weapon and how it applies to little CSI a la ancient China style ;). ¬†That stuff always amuses me since I almost wanted to study it as a career! I’d totally recommend it! Strong performances all around and worth your time!

Do you  like Donnie Yen movies? Which one is your favorite? Have you heard of Takeshi Kaneshiro before?

Chinese New Year Movie: All’s Well That Ends Well 2011 (2011)

I know Chinese New Year was yesterday but at my house it ends 7 days later, because my mom told me that on the 7th day its called people’s day, which means its everyone’s birthday. Still, how could I not take the opportunity and review a Hong Kong movie? Plus, this one is one of the longest ones going on. They’ve been making one for Chinese New Year since 2009. ¬†In 2009, it was rebooted from its original starring Stephen Chow back in 1992. ¬†The 1992 version still stands as one of my favorites but when they rebooted it in 2009 it took similar characters and gave it a connection and it helped that movie get really popular. ¬†But as you see, I’m not reviewing the 2009 one or the 1992 one (yet) but I’m reviewing the 2011 one. ¬†That one was good fun because it had Donnie Yen and he was not doing martial arts…

all's well that ends well 2011Director: Hing-Ka Chan, Janet Chun

Cast: Louis Koo, Cecilia Cheung, Donnie Yen, Carina Lau, Chapman To, Bak-Ming Wong

This is a romantic comedy which is something like the cross of Valentine’s Day (many interlinked storylines) with Scary Movie (mocking/implementing snippets of multiple movies concepts). ¬†Here’s how the storyline goes: Sammy (Louis Koo) is a straight guy who pretends to be a gay make up artist in order to thrive in his industry. ¬†He is very popular and always has to appear in TV shows and events, etc. ¬†When a Chinese oil tycoon (Bak-Ming Wong) decides to buy a growing entire beauty products company called Beauty for his girlfriend Dream who doesn’t know anything about running a business, and because of that Sammy gets tricked into being hired as the CEO. He is then assigned to have a clumsy, chatterbox assistant called Claire (Cecilia Cheung) who in an photo shoot attracts the attention of a rich guy, Slippery who is scared of women because he’s always tricked by women for his money. ¬†Its there, Sammy tries to set up Claire with Slippery. ¬†At the same time, Sammy also hires Keung (Donnie Yen), who is also a make-up artist who isn’t doing as well but understands what women want and how to transform them into extreme beauty, and has him work in the most expensive and popular make-up counter in Hong Kong to serve rich ladies to help promote Beauty. ¬†The side story here is Keung is actually in love with his first girlfriend, Moni (Carina Lau) who is now just a good friend who is an author who writes under someone else’s name and always pretends to be someone else. ¬†A Cinderella story happens with Slippery and Claire, while an unrequited love happens with Keung and Moni, at the same time, the oil tycoon wants to make sure that Dream will be not leave him and decides to do anything for her with the help of Sammy to get into shape and to make himself more attractive. ¬†However, the main character is Sammy who learns how to become himself and be confident that being himself he can still have great accomplishments both in career and love.

awtew keung moni

This is a few love stories all mashed together with a lot of funny slapstick humour. ¬†Is it my favorite among all the All’s Well that Ends Well? That it is not but this one has a lot of funny moments that keeps me watching it all the time. ¬†Plus, you know, the selling point is Donnie Yen not doing martial arts and believe me, he can a funny man. ¬†This was just the first one where he does a comedy because he’s also in All’s Well That Ends Well 2012. ¬†But I mean, who doesn’t like Donnie Yen? He’s just complete awesomeness, especially when Carina Lau (Moni) makes fun of Ip Man. ¬†If you have seen Louis Koo in Flashpoint, (also a Donnie Yen action film), you won’t ever imagine him doing this role but fact of the matter is, Louis Koo has been in the business for a long time so his acting skills are fantastic. ¬†They have a great cast to support it. ¬†Also, one face you will recognize if you’ve seen Infernal Affairs is Chapman To. ¬†He is a very good comedic actor in Hong Kong so they threw him in here and it helps out the movie quite a bit.

awtew 1

There isn’t really much to say. ¬†It has a strong cast and offers an entertaining time. Its a funny movie that celebrates and always ends with a happy ending and almost always has a shot similar to this with the cast wishing everyone a Happy Chinese New Year!

To end it off, here is the trailer: