Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Last Dragon

With "The Last Dragon", you can feel the "Rhythm of the Night"! Ha! Ok. Stop! The corniness stops there for me. But not for The Last Dragon made in 1985. Filmed as an homage to the urban popularity of martial arts movies from Asia.

The movie is about a student of Kung Fu, Bruce Leeroy. Leeroy seeks to find the final phase of his training. As we find out, Leeroy is a bit of an abnomilly in his neighorhood. His reputation for being a kung fu master gets him into some trouble along with the consequences of saving the damsel in distress played by Vanity.

I remember watching this on VHS in the late 80s. Back in those days, it did take a few years for a movie to make to VHS. I remember it being bad. Kind of a movie that could be bad enough for a cult following. In a recent conversation with a co-worker, The Last Dragon came up and I had to watch it again. Completely confirmed. Its a bad, but a "guilty pleasure" bad kind of way. For all you 80s kids, its a blast from the past.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

China and Hip Hop

The New York Times has an article titled, "Now Hip-Hop, Too, Is Made in China". The title speaks for itself. There's a hip hop movement in China. The move from Asian American rapper Jin to relocate Hong Kong was news as well.

Its good that the urban culture is exposed to those looking for a form of expression. Its taken hold in various forms in China and in a movie, Kung Fu Hip Hop.

My commentary on this phenomenon is that China needs to create its own, not borrow. I would like to see China trail blaze something that's "Chinese" and not "Westernized Chinese".

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year - 過年好!

Happy New Years to all you guys that celebrate what has now been termed "Chinese New Year".

For me and my family, its always been, New Year!

新年快樂! 過年好!

Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, Part 3

Back in November, I wrote a post about Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles. I followed that up with a part 2. Here's a part 3!

If you live in the greater LA area and have Chinese stores around, you might have run into the TV Channel Magazine run by the Yes Marketing Group in Monterey Park. I've been picking up these mags for what seems like the last 5 years. It's published on a monthly basis.

It's in Traditional Chinese and has almost no English. I picked it up to see the TV listings for the Chinese TV stations in the Los Angeles area. It has listing for the new 44.6 channel. Very helpful as I get a chance to see what's on tap for the month.

It also includes reviews for upcoming new dramas from China or Taiwan and also a Hollywood roundup.

Look for it next time you're in LA. They haven't gotten the mag into the digital era.

Related Posts:
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, Part 2
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, April 2009
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, May 2009
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, October 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Swordsmen in Double Flag Town - 双旗镇刀客

Made in 1991 in what seems to be all desert area, it's an homage to the old spaghetti westerns of yore.

Seems extremely dated, like made in the 60s. The kung fu is only foreshadowed. You don't actually see any real fighting.

I want my 90 minutes back.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

America's Best Dance Crew (Season 3) - Episode 2 - Fit Test Challenge

America's Best Dance Crew (Season 3) - Episode 2 - Fit Test Challenge is online and available for viewing.

I was little disappointed in all the crews today. No one really impressed me like they did last week. I think that the weeks challenge wasn't that good of an idea.

However, I didn't think Boxcuttuhz was that bad. I liked their performance.

I think Quest Crew impressed me the most. I hope I am objective about this ;-)

You be the judge.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hand of Death - 少林門

Hand of Death (少林門) is a 1976 movie directed by John Woo.

The movie does not star Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung. Jackie is part of the ensemble cast on the "good guys" side and Sammo Hung is part of the ensemble cast of "bad guys". John Woo makes a cameo in the film as well.

I would skip it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eat a Bowl of Tea

Wayne Wang has been around a long time and Eat a Bowl of Tea was one of his indie films from the 80s.

The movie is about a New York Chinatown right after WWII ended (40s). The Chinese Exclusion Act prevented Chinese immigrants from bringing over family members. This created a male dominated Chinatowns in the US. Russell Wong plays the son of one of these immigrants and has returned from serving in the US Army. As a serviceman, he is allowed to bring a bride back from China. Which he does via an arranged marriage. The movie than moves into how this couple deals with life in the states. Not only as an couple via arranged marriage, but as one of the few couples in Chinatown.

I was both happy and sad while watching this film. I was happy that this slice of Chinese-American history is presented. Something that was still very real until the 1960s. I was sad because the a story had to be wrapped around it. Do I think the story is representative? I don't know, but something didn't feel right about it.

I would recommend this film. This is a type of film making is no longer around within Chinese/Taiwanese American film making community. Also of note is Russell Wong. Russell Wong was the great Asian American hope during the 80s and 90s. Russell was anointed with the responsibility of breaking through to stardom. Up to that time of Eat a Bowl of Tea, no Asian American actors to date had achieved "stardom". From Russell's performance in the movie, I can see why.

Wayne and Russell seem to keep pluggin away in Hollywood or in the film industry. Wayne is still making movies. Russell keeps appearing in movies.

I have an issue with the cover of the DVD. The girl is not in the movie and there's some sexuality in the film. Why does this movie need to be exoticized?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

America's Best Dance Crew (Season 3)

America's Best Dance Crew (Season 3) started last week on 1/15/2009. I am much more impressed with these crews than with Season 2's. These are my favorite crews so far:
Beat Freaks
Dynamic Edition
Quest Crew

I am pulling for Quest Crew to take it all.

Unlike what they did in season 2, MTV isn't waiting until the day before to show the online episodes. Which is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Assassin Swordsman - 侠女闯天关 (Treasure Venture)

Assassin Swordsman is a DVD packaging of a Chinese Wuxia drama from 2000 called 侠女闯天关 (Treasure Venture). Its pretty bad because the story is condensed that you have no clue what's going on.

Skip it for your health. Mental Health. Watch the series/drama instead. However, its not on my list of wuxia dramas to watch in the future.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ping Pong Playa

I caught Ping Pong Playa this week via Netflix. I highly recommend it to all the Chinese and Taiwanese Americans. It's a satire of the Chinese/Taiwanese community in the Los Angeles area. At least, it felt very familiar to me, except the whole Chinatown and Chinese Community Center parts.

The movie is about a Chinese American named Chris. The 2nd son of a Chinese American household. Chris is not the model "Chinese-American" as he cannot hold a job, never finished college and speaks "gangsta" all the time. Chris's parents own and run a ping pong store and the mom teaches a ping pong class at the Chinese community Center in town. When Chris's mom gets into a car accident, it forces Chris to step in and run the ping pong class. It's a coming of age story for Chris from that point on.

I liked the movie quite a bit. I could relate to the "environment" and atmosphere the director, Jessica Yu was trying to set up. Which is to make a "typical" Chinese American (2nd generation, 1.5) life look like in part.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lust, Caution - 色, 戒

Lust, Caution (色, 戒) is a 2007 film by Ang Lee (李安). Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Wei Tang, Joan Chen and Lee-Hom Wang.

The movie is based in both Hong Kong and Shanghai during the Japanese occupation of China during World World II. The main plot point is that Tony Leung's character is targeted, considered a traitor to the Chinese for working for the Japanese. Leung's character tortures Chinese to help the Japanese. Wei Tang is sent in as a spy to find a way to assassinate Leung. A thriller, coming of age, and drama all rolled into one.

The emotional roller-coaster that Ang Lee puts you on is amazing. I was being pulled in all directions regarding many of the characters. Ang Lee once again shows you that you may not really understand the life his characters choose, but you end up pulling for them.

Honorable mention goes to Joan Chen for still holding it up after all these years. It was nice to see some Shanghainese (上海話). When I was around my grandparents more regularly in my elementary school days, I actually knew a hundred phrases or so. I couldn't tell if Joan Chen and Wei Tang's dialect was authentic though. But it was cool, nonetheless.

Watch and watch it again. Be aware as the reports of the heightened sexuality is not exaggerated. But you could argue that it was necessary for the purpose of the story.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (The Mummy 3) - 神鬼傳奇3

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon (The Mummy 3 - 神鬼傳奇3) was released to world in the summer of 2008 and is now on DVD. If you've seen the first 2 of this trilogy, you can expect some of the same but its mostly a departure from the first 2 Mummy films. Brandon Fraser reprises his role as Rick O'Connell as well as John Hannah as Johnathan Carnahan. The rest of the crew are new to the franchise. Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong, Jacky Wu, Jessey Meng, and Russell Wong (李連杰,楊紫瓊,梁洛施,黃秋生,吳京,孟廣美,王盛德).

The movie is the same formula of the first two. A mummy is resurrected and its up to the hero and friends to take care of it. In this installment, the main mummy is Jet Li. Jet Li has to get to the eye of Shangri-la to find the fountain of youth. Once there, the fountain gives him powers, including the ability to raise his mummified terracotta army. The heroes try to prevent this and you know the rest.

There are varying degrees of Mandarin Chinese spoken in the film. However, of the main Chinese cast, only Jet Li and Jessey Meng are fluent in Mandarin. Michelle Yeoh, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong and Russell Wong would not call Mandarin Chinese their first tongue, and you can tell. Its weird to hear and see this unfold in an Hollywood film.  And this is only the Chinese actors.  Imagine when you hear Luke Ford and friends speak Chinese.  I can imagine, I took Chinese 1 and 2 in college.  Its like that.

I selected this off Netflix because I liked Mummy 1 and 2. I also wanted to see if the movie was as bad its been made out to be. It was that and much more. I won't ever want to watch this again.

Having scored $400 million plus worldwide. You can bet another sequel is coming. The epilogue points to Peru. Will Isabella Leong reprise her roll now that she's an love interest and mortal?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Summer Palace - 頤和園

Summer Palace (頤和園) was an interesting film. I had seen banners of it around many Asian American blogs and sites during Q2 of 2008. I got Summer Palace via Netflix around that time too (April 2008). It also made a brief run in theaters in the states a year ago (Jan/Feb 2008). The movie is banned in China but has been released around the world since it hit the film festival circuit in 2006.  It gets a lot of publicity due to the Tienanmen/Tiananmen Square incident (六四事件/六四天安门事件) and the hightened focus on sexuality being explored to find oneself.

The movie follows a northern country gal Yu Hong as she sets off for life in college and beyond. The story unfolds into a coming of age for Yu Hong as she transverses college life, young adulthood and finally settling down. During college, Yu Hong falls for a popular student, Zhou Wei and that bond is explored through out Yu Hong's "coming of age" storyline. With minor story development of Zhou's life away from Yu Hong. In the end both have to make decisions about where they want to head in life.

Yu Hong is played by the beautiful Hao Lei (郝蕾). I first noticed 郝蕾 (Hao Lei) in a martial arts drama in 2007 called Men & Legends (精武飛鴻) as Peter Ho's (何潤東) lady interest. However, that was 1920s China and this was 80s/90s China. Hao Lei is someone to watch out for. I don't see any movie news for her, but she's in a few china dramas the last couple of years. It's unfortunate, but women actresses in their 30s don't always last very long. I hope Hao Lei makes it a nice career before calling it quits. Its almost impossible in your 40s.

Be aware that the sexuality is explored to the fullest with both Yu Hong and Zhou Wei. Don't watch this with your little ones around.

I highly recommend this film because it's a slice of history that is in the past, but still less than 20 years removed from the present. Feels old but new at the same time. Like watching Wedding Singer ;-)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Duel to the Death - 生死決

I caught Duel to the Death via Netflix a while back.

The movie is about Chinese vs. Japanese martial arts. A duel to the death every 10 years to see who's countries martial arts is supreme. China sends one and Japan sends one to the duel site. The site is maintained by the winner of the first duel over a century ago. The family now has no competitors and serves as host. Some challenges arise for the two contestants before they ultimately duel. The ending is quite something.

I didn't enjoy the film much and fell asleep a few times. Having to rewind and try to remember what I lasted watched made the movie experience even worst. HK produces a lot of Kung Fu movies and this is not one I would look to watch again or recommend.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rush Hour 3 - 尖峰時刻 3

I watched Rush Hour 3 (尖峰時刻 3) via Netflix about a year ago now. I remember the movie being entertaining, annoying and ultimately a letdown.

The movie is based off an investigation that all the Chinese triads in the world are ultimately centralized. There is someone that controls it named Shy Shen. To keep it out of corrupt hands, only a few know this super sensitive information. This leads them ultimately to Paris. Where hijinx ensues and Chan/Carter defeat the goons at the end.

The Rush Hour trilogy looks like it ends here, but you never know. It did make $$ and that's why Chan/Carter signed up for this installment anyways.

張靜初 (Zhang Jingchu) plays the grown up daughter of Ambassador Han. Zhang spends only about 5-10 minutes on screen so you can't really even count her as a force in this movie. Quite sad since Zhang's beauty is completely wasted.

If you've got nothing else to do and really like Jackie Chan, check it out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Double Vision - 雙瞳

I caught 2002's Double Vision (雙瞳) via Netflix almost a year ago. Its a horror, mystery, and thriller movie starring Tony Leung Ka Fai (梁家辉).

The movie is about a the investigation of strange deaths. Someone from the USA is brought in to help solve the deaths. Politics are involved and the personal life of the main protagonist is explored. A pretty well made movie, but the last 15-30 minutes was poorly paced and lacked a clear explanation.

I hadn't followed the Taiwan film industry until only the last year or so, but finding this gem on Netflix was a welcomed surprised. However, the 2 main protagonist are NOT from Taiwan.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kung Fu Panda - 功夫熊貓

I caught Kung Fu Panda (功夫熊貓) about a month ago. I had heard all the hype around it and wanted to check it out. The hype that Hollywood was successful in making both a film about kung fu and pandas. Both things that considered treasures per se in Chinese pop culture. And Pandas can be considered iconic to China.

I think the film itself was ok. The story was simple and the characters were developed to move it along. I was actually very annoyed and had a hard time finishing the film. The story was very "american". Personally, I don't know if a story like this could come out of China. But you never know, many Jackie Chan movies had a similar formula. Since there could be 5 more sequels and already released unofficial sequels and spinoffs, Jack Black will continue to do those ridiculous kung fu poses for the world to see. It also includes the racist "Kung Fu Fighting" song with updated lyrics.

In general, it felt pretty "Chinese". Some things of note that were "Chinese". The noodle making. The city. The "bao" that was contested in a scene. Many things you would see in a genre martial arts film from HK, Taiwan, or China.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, Part 2

Back in November, I wrote a post about Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles.  Here's a follow up post as some things have happened since November.

KCSI has regular Mandarin Chinese programming twice a day, around noon and around dinner.  But two new stations have been introduced with the new digtial channels.  18.6 and 18.8.

KCSI 18.6 is run by TopTV and is mainly Cantonese Chinese programming with occasionally Mandarin programs.

KCSI 18.8, since January 1, 2009, has been primarily all Mandarin Chinese programming.  I've been searching to find out if a group has purchased the rights to 18.8, but no luck yet.  18.8 has had English content with traditional Chinese subs.  But I am happy with the new programming and additional Chinese content now.

I've been stuck at home and have had too much time to check out all the digital channels.

I don't have cable so I don't know what's going on there.  But the local give away mags in Chinese have listings for the cable channels.

Happy New Years and hope you have a great 2009.

Related Posts:
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, Part 3
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, April 2009
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, May 2009
Chinese Language TV in Los Angeles, October 2009