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DRUG WAR cooks up something new

28 Dec


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.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

THE MAN OF TAI CHI is stopped by Keanu Reeves

27 Dec


Keanu Reeves does many things right in his directorial debut. He hires Woo-ping Yuen as his Action Director and he casts Tiger Hu Chen as the lead character, as well as using martial art legend Yu Hai to teach the style’s life lessons. There is some great choreography and variety to the film’s action sequences. Tiger Hu Chen’s adversaries all bring something different to the table. The problem arises when Reeves casts himself as the main antagonist, which was cool to watch him play the villain, however his acting range bleeds into Nicolas Cage territory when he attempts to be menacing. It is almost comical at times and the film would have been served better if he took a back seat and stayed in the director’s chair. Also, his “fighting skills” have diminished since the Matrix Trilogy, although he keeps his signature black outfits.  The Man of Tai Chi has some moves but it cannot evade Keanu’s poor acting.


Chuck’s Grade: C+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Great Magician is a tired act

20 Aug


The best trick this film pulls off is getting critically acclaimed actor, Tony Leung Chui Wai (Chang Hsien) to agree to do this turn of this turn of the century farce about love, magic, and China’s strained relationship with imperial Japan. I kept hoping several of the main characters would simply disappear because the acting was so atrocious that it made it difficult to get through the film in one viewing. Actor Lau Ching-wan (Bully Lei) is supposed to be Leung’s rival for Zhou Xun’s (Yin) affection, but I did not see the appeal for such a buffoon of a character. The rest of the cast is equally unsatisfying and really unnecessary for most of the film. Director Derek Yee is a veteran artist of Hong Kong cinema and has written and directed some very good films recently (Protege, Shinjuku Incident, and Triple Tap) but he had nothing up his sleeve this time. The Great Magician is a tired act.


Chuck’s Grade: F

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Tick Tock takes us back in time

20 Jul


Director Ien Chi’s short film Tick Tock uses time to frame his short film. At the beginning, an ordinary wall clock is mysteriously ticking backwards, until the characters begin to talk and move in reverse. The punch line is revealed at the beginning and the male character takes you to the point of crisis. Along the way, Chi provides headings to title the sequences, Cowardice, Reputation, Pride, Embarrassment, Greed, Indifference, and Laziness. At the end or should I say beginning, the motivation behind Chi’s story is revealed. It was a wise choice to play everything in reverse because in the other direction it would have a been a much different project that probably would have felt more like a poorly done student film. Chi is an imaginative artist that can turn the ordinary into something special– “leaving only what is truly important.”


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Porcelain Unicorn (short film) breaks your heart

18 May


Writer/director Keegan Wilcox wins the hearts and appreciation of audiences with his three minute short film about a young Hitler youth faced with a life and death decision when he finds a young Jewish girl hiding inside the walls of an abandoned house. The subject material has been explored on many levels, but Wilcox finds a way to explore the options and introduce a long-lasting gift of kindness that can shape a young person’s life. Porcelain Unicorn is unique because the script was limited to six lines as required by the Philips Parallel Lines ‘Tell It Your Way’ international competition in 2010. Even though, there were restrictions, the film tells a complete story that has an impact across generations.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A