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A Chinese Odyssey (Sai Yau Gei, 西遊記)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part One – Pandora’s Box (Sai Yau Gei: Yut Gwong Bou Haap, 西遊記第壹佰零壹回之月光寶盒)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part Two – Cinderella (Sai Yau Gei: Sin Leui Kei Yun, 西遊記大結局之仙履奇緣)

Director – Jeffrey Lau – 1995 – Hong Kong – 87 + 98m

***

The Monkey King is banished to earth with loss of memory for a series of encounters with monsters and romantic interludes – screened as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Chinese New Year on Saturday January 29th

These two films are the first and second parts of the same story, so it makes sense to screen them together as a double bill. The starting point is the 16th century Chinese novel Journey To The West, which has also spawned such productions as the seminal Chinese animation The Monkey King (Wan Laiming, Cheng Tang; Part One, 1961; Part Two, 1964) and the long-running Japanese TV series Monkey (1978-80). The novel’s plot concerns a monk and his three assistants Pigsy, Sandy and Monkey who journey to the West (i.e. Central Asia and India) to obtain Buddhist texts.

Less an adaptation of the novel than a tangential story that uses the novel’s framework as its starting point, the films are bookended by two sequences, one at the start of Part One, the other at the end of Part Two, which start the tangential story rolling and wrap it up respectively.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Detective Chinatown 3 (Tang Ren Jie Tan An 3, 唐人街探案3)

Director – Chen Sicheng – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 136m

****

The Chinese franchise’s super-sleuth and bumbling sidekick join forces with their Japanese and Thai counterparts in Japan – out in cinemas on Tuesday, January 25th and 26th only

No sooner have the brilliant crime-solving sleuth Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) and his likeable if barely competent sidekick Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) flown in to Tokyo and met their contact there, the sharp and colourful Hiroshi Noda (Satoshi Tsumabuki), than they find themselves embroiled in one of the most seriously bonkers action sequences in the movies in recent years when members of (at least) two gangs suddenly attack in the airport to the inspired accompaniment of the pop song ‘Welcome To Tokyo’ (which gets rolled out again for a cheerful, cast of thousands, song and dance routine accompanying the end credits). Extensive mayhem ensures. A man rolls down a long flight of steps in an oil drum. Two groups of smartly uniformed and skirted women do battle (one group in red, one in blue – stewardesses from rival airlines, perhaps?). Workmen in hard hats and overalls descend from scaffolding to join the melee.

Knowing this will be an impossible act to follow, the film then throws in a pursuer Jack Jaa (Thai martial arts sensation Tony Jaa from Ong-bak, Prachya Pinkaew, 2003) on the Tokyo subway before having the trio flee him on go-karts while he comes unstoppably and hilariously after them by stealing a child’s bicycle with tiny wheels.… Read the rest

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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

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Features Live Action Movies

Shock Wave 2, (Chai Dan Zhuan Jia 2, 拆彈專家 2)

Director – Herman Yau – 2020 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15 – 120m

****

A former bomb disposal expert suspected of a terrorist atrocity must prevent a terrorist organisation from destroying the Hong Kong International Airport and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th

If you’ve seen Shock Wave (Herman Yau, 2017) you’ll know that a sequel with Andy Lau reprising his character wouldn’t be possible. Both director and star clearly wanted to capitalise on the first film, however, so they’ve simply dumped character names and most of what happened in the first film, reinvented the main character and started all over again with a completely different story. This has the effect of making the audience feel that they’re seeing another film in the series but at the same time seeing something that’s brand new, not at all a carbon copy.

Except that in the broadest outline it IS a carbon copy: once again, Andy Lau plays an heroic member of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) with Philip Keung as a friend and colleague in the force, this time round named Lee Yiu Sing, while the plot involves the potential huge bombing of an important Hong Kong landmark – here the Hong Kong International Airport which is blown up at the start only for a voice-over to explain that this terrorist atrocity has been prevented thanks to one man.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Shock Wave (Chai Dan Zhuan Jia, 拆彈專家)

Director – Herman Yau – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 118m

****

A bomb disposal expert must prevent a bomber from destroying the Cross Harbour Hong Kong Tunnel and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th

Undercover police bomb disposal expert JS Cheung (Andy LauInfernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002, Days Of Being Wild, Wong Kar-wai, 1990, As Tears Go By, Wong Kar-wai, 1988) of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) blows his cover during a daring operation by a gang of criminals to kill as many cops as possible using car bombs. The car chase mayhem ends with the arrest of Biao Hong (Leo Wang Zi-yi) the explosives nerd and little brother of gang leader Peng Hong (Jiang Wu – Wrath Of Silence, Xin Yukun, 2017; Monster Hunt, Raman Hui, 2015). Some time later, Peng Hong Blocks traffic in the busy Cross Harbour Hong Kong Tunnel running from Kowloon to Hong Kong, trapping motorists and passengers as hostages and threatening to blow up the tunnel unless his brother is released.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain (Shu Shan – Xin Shu shan jian ke, 新蜀山劍俠)

Director – Tsui Hark – 1983 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 98m

*****

One of the greatest special effects action movies ever made, this groundbreaking epic delivers non-stop, near unbelievable, visually entrancing vistas of Chinese mythology – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th and available on Blu-ray

There are films which seem almost single-handedly to define cultures. There are plenty of elements in Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain that can be found elsewhere in Hong Kong cinema – martial arts stunts, flying wire work, period costumes, stock figures, airborne drapery – and yet the precise way this mixes these elements up then adds in others and adds in lots of 2D effects animation makes it a unique work, even by Tsui’s extraordinary standards.

With the ancient world in which he lives in a state of chaos due to constantly warring human factions, a man gets swiftly out of his depth when he sidesteps all that to follow a hero in the hope of becoming his disciple as the hero battles the forces of evil. If this sounds very highbrow… well, perhaps it is. Or perhaps it’s just an excuse to put together a series of truly extraordinary special effects action set-pieces that transport the viewer to mythological otherworlds the exact like of which have never been seen onscreen before or since.… Read the rest

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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

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Beautiful New Bay Area Project

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2013 – Japan – 29m

****

A company director steals a woman worker’s name tag and she fights and kickboxes him and his people to get it back – currently on MUBI as part of The Uncanny Universe of Kiyoshi Kurosawa

A young man (Emoto Tasuku) is president of the company he has inherited from his father. His right hand man encourages him to pitch on a development project on the side of the river. He hangs out on a construction site and watches the workers go about their jobs. He is particularly taken with woman worker Takako (Mita Moa).

So much so that he tries to strike up a conversation with her, but she ignores him. Indeed, she goes out of her way to vanish from his sight to where he can’t find her. So he later in her full view steals her name tag from a board and hides it in his office. He instructs his security that if the woman appears in his building, she is to be thrown out.

That sets up the final ten plus minutes of the short in which to access his office and her purloined name tag she must physically kickbox her way past several guards to fight him for the tag.… Read the rest