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THE WRATH OF VAJRA

31 Mar

THE-WRATH-OF-VAJRA

The Wrath of Vajra is…different. Anti-Japanese films are nothing new from the Chinese, but this film is about a rogue WWII martial art master that began a cult of warriors that worshiped the God, Hades. His recruits would come from stolen children from around the world to become unstoppable warriors. After WWII, the master is imprisoned and his former students are left to carry out his vision. Escaped student, K-29 returns to fight to the death against his “brothers” in a series of tests that include a battles against a “giant-like” master and “demon-inspired” fighter, until the final show down with the disciple/leader, K-28. The kung fu and action sequences are good, but the story is too outside the octagon for me and has too many predictable plot choices to make it a great film. However, die-hard kung fu fans will appreciate the skill sets of Yu Xing and Sung-jun Yoo. Everyone else pales in comparison.

WORD COUNT: 159

Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: N/A

DRUG WAR cooks up something new

28 Dec

DRUG-WAR

America is no stranger to films about crystal meth and the dark characters that are associated with the narcotic, however, in mainland China director Johnnie To breaks new ground by cooking up an interesting gangster film that has a snitch willing to say or do anything to save his life with an undercover cop determined to bring a group of gangsters to justice by any means necessary. Police captain Zhang  (Sun Honglei) takes information from Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) and runs with it by impersonating different gangsters while at the same time pumping Choi for more and more information, until it leads him to the major players behind the drug trade. Choi’s integrity and loyalty are being tested while Zhang  battles with his ego and obsession. Both actors give strong performances that lead audiences along to an amazing climax featuring ultra violence from every possible direction. I liked the film, but buying into the cops’ sting was difficult for me.

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Grandmaster is a delicate and deliberate work of art

19 Sep

THE-GRANDMASTER

Wong Kar-Wai is one of China’s most celebrated and respected directors because his aesthetic eye is unmatched, much like his the title of his latest film, The Grandmaster starring Tony Leung as Ip Man, the martial art champion of Wing Chun that has become a household name among Netflix audiences familiar with the Donnie Yen films. This interpretation easily replaces the previous versions. It chronicles his life before and after the Second Sino-Japanese war as a well-respected kung fu master selected to represent the Southern styles against the undefeated Northern Grandmaster. The film is beautifully shot and every single detail is accentuated by Wong Kar-Wai’s ability to make the familiar look strange. Tony Leung’s performance is equal to his character’s name and Zhang Ziyi’s (Gong Er) keeps the film from becoming a one-dimensional martial art film. Her presence and her character’s objective, as well as her obstacles deepens the story. The Grandmaster is a delicate and deliberate work of art.

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Sorcerer and the White Snake

14 Jul

The Sorcerer and the White Snake

The Sorcerer and the White Snake is a Chinese fantasy film based on a story that has been passed down for generations. Although, some of the cultural references will be lost on domestic audiences, the poor acting from the supporting characters cannot be ignored.The female actresses (Huang Shengyi and Charlene Choi) are gorgeous, but their love stories are beyond juvenile and much too drawn out.  Jet Li’s character is interesting as a demon “buster” monk, but the film is not about him. His kung fu powers serves as the story’s deus ex machina.  I am sure young people who enjoy shape-shifting and demons will find this very polished film entertaining, but for me, I was bored out of my mind.

WORD COUNT: 120

Chuck’s Grade: D

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection comes to life when it counts

23 Jan

PAINTED-SKIN-2-THE-RESURRECTION

Usually, sequels are not very good compared to the original, but Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection holds up well against its predecessor. This installment has the original cast minus action star Donnie Yen. I like this story better because it does not flip-flop back and forth between fantasy and horror. Xiaowei is a fox demon trapped in a beautiful body that must live on a human heart to survive, but if she finds someone who will freely offer her a heart, then she can become a human being.The Resurrection is a fantasy film with a romance about forbidden love. The deception in this film is subtle and the love triangle relationship between actresses, Zhao Wei and Zhou Xun, and actor Chen Kun carries audiences through to the end. There are some consistency problems when it comes to the visual aesthetics and the film is much too long for the story being told, but it does comes to life when it counts.

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

HERO meets his match

26 Aug

Hero is not your ordinary Chinese martial art film. It is a visual masterpiece that uses color to communicate the film’s emotion to audiences. Jet Li stars as the nameless hero that attempts to assassinate the King of Qin, but first he must figure out a way to get close enough to his target. The film is a series of flashbacks that reveal key episodes behind Li’s journey to the King’s Palace.

Director Zhang Yimou balances a worthy script with a beautiful design concept and some of the best kung fu ever seen on film.  The highly anticipated duel between Li and Donnie Yen does not disappoint the most rabid martial art fans, but the true power of the film comes from the trio of actors, Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, and Maggie Cheung creating and re-creating different levels of tension through a series of vignettes that ultimately reveals the Hero’s difficult decision.

My decision is easy. Its a great film.

WORD COUNT: 159

Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B+