Friday, July 8, 2011

Coming back in a week or so....

I am trying to make 1000 post by the end of 2011. Looks like I will have an hard time doing that with this hiatus and prolly a couple more as the year goes on. Which leaves me at roughly 950-980 posts as the year ends. Just depends on how many breaks I take.

I wasn't planning on stopping this time around, but the 4th of July weekend wreaked my schedule and I started watching "Autumn's Concerto" again. Spawned mainly by the reruns recently on LA 18.8.

There's also a truckload of wuxia series that I have yet to get around to.

When I watch series, its a huge time sink that spans days. Movies are a one night shot.

I am looking forward to Wuxia with Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Season Of The Witch - 魔女神兵

Season Of The Witch (魔女神兵) is an 2011 film. The movie stars Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman. The film was based during the crusades era of the middle ages.

Nicolas Cage plays Behmen and Ron Perlman plays Felson. Both are Teutonic knights for the Church during the crusades. After a battle where they kill many innocent women and children, they both quit the army and head back to Germany. As fugitives, they have to keep a low profile or risk being thrown into prison. However, they much replenish supplies and head to a town where they are captured. The Church offers them a pardon if they take the black witch to a monastery for a trial. The two agree to the deal and set up on a quest to delivery the black witch.

If you like medieval type films of knights and chivalry, this is a good modern film for it. You've got knights honor, fighting for good, and a genuine antagonist that causes lots of headaches for the protagonist. Although the movie as a whole had a weak premise, it plays very much like a video game. Strong and skilled protagonist are charged with a mission of dangerous proportions with a huge payoff at the end. I enjoyed it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ashes Of Time Redux - 東邪西毒

Ashes of Time Redux (東邪西毒) is a 2008 film out of Hong Kong. This film is the restored and slightly adjusted version from the original 1994 film, Ashes Of Time. Some of the film's main characters are very loosely based on characters that appear in Jin Yong's wuxia novel The Legend of the Condor Heroes. This is also the only film directed by Wong Kar-wai that is adapted from material he didn't create.

The Cast
Leslie Cheung as Ouyang Feng
Brigitte Lin as daughter of Murong clan
Maggie Cheung as Ouyang Feng's sister-in-law
Jacky Cheung as Hong Qigong
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Blind Swordsman
Tony Leung Ka-fai as Huang Yaoshi
Li Bai as Hong Qigong's wife
Carina Lau as Blind Swordsman's wife
Charlie Yeung as Girl with mule

The Story
Ouyang Feng is a dealer for people looking for assassins. Feng has an outpost in the desert where people go to wheel and deal with him. Every year, Huang Yaoshi visits during springtime and they catch up. Along the way, various people roll through the outpost looking for action. Among them are all the others listed in the cast, with exception of Feng's sister-in-law and the blind swordsman's wife. One by one, an story of lost love and betrayal is presented. Everyone's running from something.

My Thoughts
If you read my first post on the original version, you'll see that I didn't enjoy the 1994 version of Ashes Of Time much. However, I had fond enough memories of the film to include it in my Top 20 movies of the 1990s. And this version was also in Cantonese. The only Mandarin is from Brigitte Lin and Li Bai (and when Jacky speaks to Li Bai). So, I wasn't getting the language patterns other than from the subtitles. Which is disappointing. Mandarin dubs still try to stay within the emotional realm of the native tongue.

So, how was it this time around, 15 years after its release? Was this condensed version that included title headings to break up story arcs and "what they become" abstracts on the 3 of the five greats good? Much better! Even though I don't like watching canto dubs, this one was ok since it was such a beautifully shot film. The wide angle shots really presented the mode and the way things flowed made it seem like a dream. And all the stars were 15 years younger! Maggie Cheung was stunning! The rest of the cast just made things easy on the eyes while the environment was gritty and dusty.

The music was also re-scored with Yo Yo Ma on cello. I have the original soundtrack from the 1994 film and use it as finals study music for years. Unfortunately, I can't find the CD now, but the music was vastly different this time around. But it still entranced me in the moment and mood of the scenes.

Is there an coherent story, not really. Yet, it was the search for something on the horizon that made the story arcs move. I also think the Wong assumes you actually knew the story behind Feng, Huang, and Hong, which adds to how you think they are, but they break that character mode.

In the end, I believe this was a well deserved re-mastered version and one that should not be missed. Even at 17 years old now (really 18 in terms of filming), this film not only holds up well, its a testament to how good the HK movies were in the pre-turnover era.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Men Who Stare at Goats - 超異能部隊

The Men Who Stare at Goats (超異能部隊) is an 2009 film. The film stars George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, and Kevin Spacey.

Ewan McGregor is a journalist that follows George Clooney around trying to write a story about the US Army's program for psychic powers. Clooney goes to IRAQ because he felt a vision tell him to go there. When they get to IRAQ, they try to camp out. They than get captured by criminals that want to sell them to terrorist. During the exchange, they manage to escape with another captive who takes them to his house. From there, they find their way to a underground psychic company doing experiments.

The movie was a trip. I didn't know what to expect from one scene to the next. Because of this, I wasn't all that engaged and fell asleep a few times. The story was unique but not all that interesting.