Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Matrix

Directors – Larry and Andy Wachowski – 1999 – US – Cert.15 – 136 mins

*****

The Matrix combines tropes of Japanese animation with live action Hong Kong stunt choreography and groundbreaking ‘bullet time’ special effects.

25th Anniversary UK rerelease (4k remaster): Friday, June 8th, 2024;

UK release: June 11th 1999;

Article originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999.

1999. The Matrix is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E.

Technically, a matrix is a multidimensional array of locations, with each cell uniquely addressable. Contents not specified. Back in late April, when Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix was first screened for UK press, Warners’ line beneath the film’s title on the publicity flier ran, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects. Perhaps it should have read, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action. Or even, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action reconceived in terms of anime. Okay, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s closer to the truth.

Ostensibly a megabudget Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon / Die Hard / Predator / Speed / Road House / Assassins) SF actioner well beyond the extremities of this magazine’s remit, directed by the Wachowski Brothers (writer‑directors of Bound, screenwriters for Assassins), The Matrix opens with an incredible sequence wherein Trinity (Carrie‑Anne Moss, who looks for all the world like a Westernised version of a Hong Kong starlet in cat burglar get up… Black Cat’s Jade Leung or Irma Vep’s Maggie Cheung, perhaps?)… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles
Mutant Mayhem

Directors – Jeff Rowe, Kyler Spears – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 99m

*****

The much loved comic-generated franchise gets a remakable reboot in animation that breaks the filmmaking mould to really get under the skin of the teenage experience – out in UK cinemas on Monday, July 31st

Hollywood animated children’s films since the advent of computer animation. They all look the same. Okay, that’s not entirely fair, but with notable exceptions like the Laika films and the recent Spider-Verse films there’s a definite homogeneity to this output overall, industry wisdom dictating the production parameters and the overall look and feel. There’s a mould there, the films make money and producers are terrified to break that mould. Not so here.

The irony is that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property, born out of a late night joke between two comic book artists who never expected to sell more than a one-off issue, has spawned numerous spin-offs in comics, animated TV series, video games and movies. Somehow, the previous six movies – three in the 1990s (including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Steve Barron, 1990; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze, Michael Pressman, 1991), one in 2007, and two more in the last decade following a reboot in 2014 – never quite delivered on the promise of the franchise, as if everyone concerned was too focused on the moneymaking potential and trying to play everything safe, an approach completely at odds with that of the two artists who originated the property and simply thought of it as a fun idea worth developing.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Ride On
(Longma Jingshen,
龙马精神)

Director – Larry Yang – 2023 – China – Cert. PG – 126m

****

Ageing stuntman Jackie Chan must fight to retain ownership of the horse he has befriended and trained since rescuing it at birthout on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital in the UK on Monday, July 24th following its release in UK, Irish, Chinese and US cinemas on Friday, April 7th

Why does one go to see a Jackie Chan movie? The usual reasons are the incredible stunts coupled with the likeable, knockabout comedy which is his trademark. Perhaps the star’s winsome personality also plays a part. His best films over the years have probably contained a mixture of all three. While these elements, notably Jackie’s personality, are all present to some degree here, they aren’t really its strengths – which are (1) the depiction of a career, reviewed by a person who is old, past their prime, and forced to confront the fact and (2) the relationship of a man with a horse which he has known from the time of its birth.

The day Ride On was released in both the UK and China was also Jackie Chan’s 69th birthday. While I don’t doubt he keeps himself in good condition, he is clearly no longer the young man he once was.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Jackie Chan’s
Police Story
Trilogy

Police Story (Ging Chaat Goo Si, 警察故事)

*****

Director – Jackie Chan – 1985 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 100m

Police Story II (Ging Chaat Goo Si Juk Jaap, 警察故事續集)

***1/2

Director – JackieChan – 1988 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 101m

Police Story 3 Supercop (Ging Chaat Goo Si III: Chiu Kup Ging Chaat, 警察故事3超級警察)

*****

Director – Stanley Tong– 1992 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 96m

The Police Story trilogy is a landmark of Hong Kong action cinema. As David West points out in his informative essay in the accompanying booklet to Eureka’s welcome 4K UHD release of the three films, the first one was the point in Jackie Chan’s career where he broke with period dramas to make a vehicle for himself that was totally modern, set in contemporary Hong Kong rather than an historic Chinese past or even the early twentieth century of his own Project A series of films. Action films set in the present started to emerge in Hong Kong in the early 1980s, with a couple of them directed by Chan’s fellow former Peking Opera schoolmate Sammo Hung, who managed to secure roles for Jackie some way down the cast list in Winners And Sinners (1983) and My Lucky Stars (1985).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Black Widow

Director – Cate Shortland – 2021 – US, UK – Cert. 12a – 133m

****

Marvel’s latest is less about mysterious former spy Black Widow than the relationship between her and her younger sister – out in cinemas on Wednesday, July 7th

The nuclear family of a father, mother and two young daughters growing up in Ohio in the mid-1990s turns out not to be a nuclear family at all but a man, a woman and two unsuspecting children planted there to look like one by mysterious Russian organisation the Red Room. Natasha (Ever Anderson) is both highly competitive with and protective of her little sister Yelena (Violet McGraw). When someone gets hurt, their mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) is always there for comfort and support.

“You remember how we said one day we’d have an adventure?” says dad Alexei (David Harbour). “Well, that day has come.” He has the only remaining copy of computer files on a disc. There’s an hour to pack before first police cars then S.H.I.E.L.D. SUVs turn up looking for them. By the time the SUVs find them, the family are busy taking off in a private plane from a hidden airfield. When they reach Cuba, the mother is dying from a bullet wound while the father is revealed as a mercenary, happy to see the two children who aren’t actually their daughters at all sedated and taken away after the older Natasha has pulled a gun on her ‘dad’.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Movies

Bazaar Jumpers
(Pao Ku Shao Nian,
跑酷少年)

Director – Zhiqiang Hao – 2012 – China – Cert. N/C PG – 61m

***

Two Uyghur boys and their parkour team in Northern China hone their skills for an upcoming “China proper” tournament in Beijing – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Approaching Reality documentary strand until Wednesday, May 12th

NB.

(1) Please read this review before watching because the recommended N/C PG certificate, while completely legal, perhaps ought to be higher because of one particular sequence (detailed in the final Spoiler Alert paragraph).

(2) The title seems to vary between Bazaar Jumper (singular) and Bazaar Jumpers (plural) on the film’s promotional literature. I’ve gone with the plural as that’s what’s on the film print. The singular is on the trailer below.

Urumqi, Xinjiang, one of the parts of Northern China with a large Uyghur section of the population. That’s not really writ large here, and as I was watching I was wondering what the spoken language was until I worked out it was Uyghur. The film is ostensibly about a group of late teenage, Muslim boys obsessed with parkour (free running), a physical craze in which obstacles such as buildings, walls and street furniture are climbed or traversed rather than gone around.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Vanguard

Director – Stanley Tong – 2020 – China – Cert. tbc – 107m

**

Jackie Chan actioner trades on his former glory from decades ago but relies too much on CG trickery and fails to ignite the screen – on VoD from Friday, January 8th

Vanguard is an organisation which… well, it’s never clear exactly what it does, but Jackie Chan is fairly high up in it and it has a lot of field operatives and high tech equipment, surveillance, weaponry and similar. This film moves around various high profile international locations – including London, the African bush and Dubai. When a man is kidnapped by criminals who want to access his vast wealth for their own nefarious ends, it’s up to Vanguard to rescue him.

One could be charitable and say that no-one goes to a Jackie Chan movie for the script, but the script here is so sketchy as to be almost non-existent. It plays out rather as a series of set pieces, and I’d love to be able to tell you that these are incredible – in some Jackie Chan movies that’s true – but sadly, in this one, for the most part, they really aren’t.

Chan in his heyday picked up the baton passed on by some of the great stunt / gag players of Hollywood’s silent era (Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd), combined what they were doing with Chinese martial arts and appeared in some truly spectacular films such As the Project A and Police Story films.… Read the rest