As the third and final part in a series of films, anyone who decides to watch this one first will be pretty bewildered as to who’s who and what motivates each character. Clearly then, as a stand-alone film, this wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, poor screen writing (or maybe translations – though, they seemed professional enough), didn’t really do this film a great deal of justice either, as some excellent directing and photography are let down by what seemed like coincidences and a lack of suspense in a plot that could have had it by the bucket-load. As with Parts I & II, the acting is good even if the dialogue is left wanting, and the action is well done – yet nothing we haven’t seen before – with the CGI, for the most part, being on a Hollywood level. I suppose what I’m getting at is that The Four 3 ticks all the boxes for a summer blockbuster-type film, but unfortunately, it also ticks that “Totally disposable entertainment” category, meaning that you’ll probably only see it because you’ve already watched the other two, but it won’t leave any kind of lasting impression.
Cold Blood aka Leng Lingqi, a former spy from a rival crime-fighting department known as Department Six previously sent to infiltrate the Constabulary and learn their secrets who has the gift (or curse) of transforming into a beast when provoked. He is in love with Emotionless (Crystal Liu Yifei), a psychic in a wheelchair who immediately recalls Professor X. Looking after Emotionless like an older brother is Iron Hands (Collin Chou), whose power is apparent from his name. And last but not least, there is Life Stealer, better known for being a fast talker and a wine lover than for any particular standout ability.
There is a whole lot of backstory in ‘The Four II’ which proves critical to understanding the narrative developments here. Emotionless has learnt the truth behind her family’s assassination as a child, which precipitates her disillusionment with Zhuge Zhengwo and Iron Hands, as well as to a certain extent Cold Blood. On the other hand, Cold Blood is caught in a love triangle with newly installed Department Six head Ji Yaohua, who is doing the bidding for a certain powerful Lord An. Lord An wants revenge for his son An Shigeng, the baddie from the first movie who is now grafted onto a tree for life. Oh, there is also a shapeshifter named Ruyan (Ada Yan) also doing Lord An’s deeds, who sets in motion the chain of events in this third movie. So despite the misgivings about ‘The Four’, this final instalment still manages to cap the trilogy at a high. In terms of storytelling, it is easily the most fluid, and in character development, the least clunky among the three. Those looking for some grand blockbuster action will still however be disappointed, as Ku Huen-chiu’s choreography still leaves much to be desired amid the slightly improved CGI. Yet, it’s as good a conclusion as one can ask for, so if it’s closure you seek, then it’s closure you’ll get; everyone else need not bother.
Kim Ha-Neul plays Yeong-ju, a convicted criminal who has just won parole by using her acting skills to make the parole board feel sorry for her. Through a chain of coincidences involving a stolen engagement ring, she ends up in a small town pretending to be the pregnant girlfriend of a man she sat next to on the train. It’s a great idea for a romantic comedy that may very well work for some viewers. But a great comedy needs to actually deliver laughs, and I found that the laughs were few and far between. As for romance, it was difficult to figure out why the two lead characters fell in love. They don’t seem to enjoy each other’s company very much. A few more scenes showing them drawing closer together would have made it easier to root for a happy ending. Yeong-ju’s character was unconvincing as an ex-con. Sure she prides herself on being able to mislead people by spinning convincing lies, but otherwise she’s as high-minded and moral as any woman you’ll ever meet. It would never occur to her to steal money just because it’s there for the taking.
“Yeong-ju” is a cute, innocent looking girl with an excellent deception skills who is imprisoned for fraud. But using her talent she managed to go through the evaluation and able to receive a parole for her only sister’s wedding. She boards a train with wooden crafted geese which she handcrafted as for her sister’s wedding gift. But during the journey she is confronted by an innocent village boy “Hui-cheol”. He is also on his way to propose his love to his girlfriend with his deceased mother’s family heirloom ring. New problems begin when Yeong-ju witnessing pickpocket man stealing the ring from Hui-cheol. Driven mad by her own safety she stole the ring back, to make everything back to normal. But unfortunately for her, she is unable to board the train on time thus missing it and leaving her wedding gift bag on the train.
Determined to find her bag, she tracks down Hui-cheol and reaches his village looking for him. Making things more complicated everybody misunderstood her and welcomed her as their daughter-in-law due to the ring. Unwilling to tell them the truth due to her own safety and get time to resumption of her bag she manages to fool everyone around the family and manipulate Hui-cheol as father of her unborn child. Meanwhile, Hui-cheol who didn’t have the ring to make the marriage proposal comes back empty with a heavy heart, and is enraged when he finds the plot that has been going on while he was away. But worsening his situation, no one actually believes him, thinking he had abandoned his poor fiancée, and ended up kicked him out of the house making his life more miserable.
This is a standard made-to-order romantic comedy from the Korean Cinema that is both cheesy and formulaic despite the good performance of Kim Ha-Neul, who’s effective as a wacky romantic comedy lead.Practically,it offers nothing new to the genre. Director and script writer Han Lee (“Lover’s Concerto”) knows what he has to bring the chemistry of its two main characters to best on the screen, a narrative should focus for the film, however, can work wonders. Thus, there are just a few nice and funny scenes, a few excerpts from the lives of the two protagonists to talk to some, but it can easily raise the question where that will lead everything? Well, obviously a frustrating second half, their sudden act “profound” life considerations can be extremely artificial and the characters will soon grow up. As viewers we have here is clearly the right to feel cheated, because that is not what we actually thought to have paid. In this circumstance “would get Don’t Believe Her” is actually more deductions, but the good performers, the sound director and the undeniable entertainment potential supply despite everything, still nice enough for a movie night.
In the 19th century, various nations forced the weak Chinese Ch’ing leaders to accept their presence in the country. Countries like Britain, Russia, France and even Japan carved out portions of the country to be used as bases for trade and one of the ways they made money was in the opium trade. Additionally, Chinese warlords and gang leaders worked with these foreigners to exploit the country and its wealth and, not surprisingly, the common people resented this. But these foreigners and their Chinese partners were getting rich and had little regard for the damage they were causing. This led to a variety of wars (such as the Opium Wars and, later, the Boxer Rebellion) and eventually to unification and the abolishment of the Emperor–who seemed to care little about the plight of the people or the weakness of his country. One hero during this period of civil war and chaos was Wong Fei-hung. His prowess with martial arts made him a rallying point and many of his exploits have been celebrated and exaggerated in movies over the years, such as Jet Li’s “Once Upon a Time in China” and Jackie Chan’s “Drunken Master” films. The latest in a long line of semi- biographical films is “Rise of the Legend”.
In this version, the earlier part of Wong Fei-hung’s life is explored by director Roy Hin Yeung Chow and the legendary man himself is played by Eddie Peng. While Peng is not exactly a household name, his martial arts skills are superb in the film– mostly because they are both incredible to watch and generally believable. Little so called ‘wire fu’ is used in the film and heroes DO bleed and get the snot kicked out of them from time to time. The only really difficult to believe part for me was watching the familiar actor Sammo Hung fighting the hero to nearly a draw. While Hung has made a ton of martial arts films (many with his friend Jackie Chan), he is in his 60s and, well, a bit rotund (I have NO reason to talk in this department)–and seeing him battle Peng did take some suspension of belief, though Hung did amazingly well and surprised me with his performance.
The film is a bit difficult to follow, as some things in the plot the film assumes the viewer will know. Additionally, the storytelling is occasionally non-linear. So, as I watched, I found that I really needed to pay attention, understand the context and piece it all together in my mind as I watched. What you slowly come to realize is that the evil leader of the Black Tiger Gang in Canton, Lei Gong (Hung), has just made Wong Fei-hung his fourth adopted son after Wong single-handedly kills one of Gong’s rivals and takes out a HUGE number of the guy’s soldiers. You can only assume Wong is evil, as Lei Gong is rich from his profits in selling opium and slavery. However, as the film progresses, you realize that Wong is playing a very deep plan–one that aims to eventually free the slaves, destroy the opium warehouses and aid the common man. Considering that Lei Gong is ruthless, evil, has an army of his own and has three other adopted sons who are amazing with their martial arts skills, Wong’s task seems monumental to say the least!
So is this any good? Well, generally yes. The action is first- rate. While not quite as wild as you might find in many films, the martial arts fighting looks real and it will keep you on edge. Additionally, there are many story elements that work well. My only qualms are the way the story is presented. As I alluded to above, the film can be a bit hard to follow and sometimes I got the feeling that I’ve seen many similar films–and I have considering how many Wong Fei-hung films have come out of China in the last few decades! My verdict is that if you are a fan of the genre and understand the context, by all means watch this one. If not, then it’s not exactly a must-see film…though you certainly can’t go wrong watching it.
The first hour of the film is basically spent on Kenshin training to get his fighting mojo back, as Kaoru was lying comatose in a hospital somewhere. Aside from a brief but exciting fight scene between Master and Student, there was a lot of talk in this hour about the fear of death and the will to live. Momentum really got bogged down by the philosophical arguments. Enter the Pause Zone, where the formerly brutal assassin decides to hold off his attack until the titular Kenshin (Takeru Sato) is caught and executed by the authorities in Tokyo. Never mind that Kenshin was last sighted off the coast of Kyoto and might well be dead—it’s time for everyone to sit around and wait. And wait. And wait. Kaoru Kamiya’s (Emi Takei) entire contribution to the film is to be asleep and then wake up. Sanosuke Sagara (Munetaka Aoki) is relegated to watching Kaoru be asleep and then wake up. His only contribution comes in the last act, at which point he essentially rehashes his big semifinal fight from the first Kenshin movie in 2012. It’s fun, but it’s not much of a payoff when you’ve seen it before.
Kenshin spends much of the film on the Japanese version of Dagobah with his master, Hiko Seijuro (an effective Masaharu Fukuyama), in an effort to up his game after being defeated by Shishio and Sojiro Seta (Ryunosuke Kamiki) in the last film. The extended, artfully choreographed stick-vs-sword pummeling opens up some well-earned character development—as well as a few wounds—and could have formed a strong core to the story if the filmmakers had been able to restrict themselves to a single central character. Sadly, none of the other characters gets to develop so much as a hangnail. Shishio’s myrmidons, the Ten Swords (Juppon Gatana), are each given a single line of motivational justification narrated by a fist-fighting monk, and few get to express anything beyond fashion sense. Sojiro suffers most: the breadth and implication of Kenshin’s anti-killing philosophy have been so thinly established—and Sojiro’s background so hazily sketched—that their final conflict, while a thrillingly tight sword-and-grapple affair, has no emotional stake, and Sojiro’s subsequent breakdown lacks context or justification.
And woe be to those who question the purpose of any of the action: Aside from Kenshin’s meeting with his master, the entire trip from Tokyo to Kyoto is revealed to have been entirely unnecessary, as the finale takes place back in Tokyo anyway, and the entire cast could have just waited at home. Aoshi Shinomori (Yusuke Iseya) could have been written out of the script entirely. His fight with Kenshin is poignant, but only serves as a speed bump on the way to a conclusion that has been sitting static since the opening act. Most unforgivably for a film that has tried to be gritty and political, the setup for the finale is simply preposterous. In the previous film, Shishio had such superior intelligence capabilities that he was not only able to assassinate a government official in transit, but also make it look like the work of another group. In this film, he is somehow completely oblivious to the weeks-long construction of half a dozen cannons on an exposed hilltop within sight of his ship—which inexplicably sits stationary in open sight the entire time.
When all hell breaks loose, a longboat full of cops immediately rows right up to the broadside of the battle cruiser—over open water, in broad daylight—without dodging so much as a shot. Much hay is made of the government’s pusillanimity in firing on the battleship while the protagonists are still aboard, but the deck doesn’t so much as wobble for ten minutes at a time when the heroes have a score to settle. Does the artillery crew just go to lunch? And why doesn’t the ship just sail out of range? For that matter, why does Shishio’s sword make fire? And then, at the height of all this logic-free lunacy, something incredible happens, and even Aoshi’s otherwise pointless existence is excused. The final ten minutes of The Legend Ends represent the most innovative and inclusive four-on-one fight to ever to grace the silver screen. An expanding cast of psychos, heroes and hellraisers piles on not one after another in clichéd action fashion, but in fully choreographed five-directional fury, with every fighter bringing his own style and character to the game. The sequence is simultaneously brutal, gripping and hilarious—exhilarating and mind-blowing. It’s almost enough to make us forget all the sins committed on the way.
This was originally a late night Japanese TV series, condensed here to a 90 minute movie. It stars the six members of the girl pop group “Denpa Gumi, Inc.”. This group started in Akihabara, and the film is partly a vehicle to present them in Maid-like uniforms, swimsuits and frilly negligees. There is no sex or nudity, though.
The title means “White Witch School”. Elfen Blonde Mogami Moga is troubled because her younger sister apparently committed suicide after school bullying. She suddenly receives an email invitation to enter the White Witch School. At the school, she meets six classmates (the entire student body) and three young, enigmatic teachers (the entire faculty). They are sworn into the school. We see a demonstration of the three young teachers fighting as “White Witches” against some school bully girls. Big white CGI wings emerge from their backs, and they throw CGI light balls at the enemies, as well as punch and kick, It’s a nice scene, rather like Ultraman, etc.
The students are put on harsh physical training. We learn that each of the students has some past pain and emotional scar. This is apparently a pre-requisite for a White Witch. After a little while, all the girls manifest a single “White Witch” power through cheap CGI. At this point, the film turns much darker. The teachers announce that only one girl can finally become a White Witch. They all must fight each other to the death with their new powers until one is victor. Although all are friends by now, the teachers egg them on. For the rest of the film, this fight is what they do.
As a late-night show, this was not meant for kids. The tone is often horrific or erotic. Despite the “Magic School” setting, it is the battle to the death and emotional trauma of the students, rather than the magical training that is the primary focus. Don’t expect a Harry Potter-type movie. It is frequently gory and downbeat. If you are a fan of Denpa Gumi or the “fight to the death” genre (e.g. Battle Royale), than you’ll probably enjoy it. If you want a light-hearted film for kids, than stay away. The CGI effects and camera work are TV-quality, but acceptable. The acting is a bit over the top in a few places but also tolerable. Protagonist Mogami is always cute, even when she looks depressed or stressed, which is often here.
It’s the end of the century at a corner of the city in a building riddled with crime – Everyone in the building has turned into zombies. After Jenny’s boyfriend is killed in a zombie attack, she faces the challenge of surviving in the face of adversity. In order to stay alive, she struggles with Andy to flee danger. There are some T&A in there, but not enough to justify the ticket price, and not the ones you went in hoping to see. My feeling is that the director is familiar with elements from various zombie movies, yet completely missed that zombie movies are always about the human; zombies are forces of nature that creates the survivalist environment which brings out the cruel and selfish tendency within us. Instead we get characters that are just as bland and dumb as the zombies they are fighting. Zombie Battle Royale would be more fitting title for this movie.
The movie has no idea whether it wants to be an action film, body horror, or slap stick comedy. This really is all over the place. The director seems to have no direction ironically enough. It can’t seem to decide what genre it wants to be, a horror, a martial arts or a dystopian post apocalypse but fails really in all areas. There is a fair amount of illogic in it which makes it very disjointed and nonsensical. It was empathized in the first part of the movie that the storm clouds in the sky were strange, alluding to this being the cause of the oncoming zombie outbreak but this was a pointless exercise as it had nothing to do with it. Also the dialogue kept being intertwined between English and Mandarin for no reason at all. Conversations would take place where both languages were mashed together when they were all obviously native Asians and there was no need to speak dual languages in the same conversation.
Why was there a car half way up a high-rise and why did they drive it along a corridor and nose dive it off the building? These were all just plain daft scenarios that should never have been put into the movie. The second part of the movie was kind of tacked on and didn’t flow at all. It’s almost as if the director just ran too short on the first half so padded it out with this bullsh*t section. I hardly think a timid school teacher from the first part of the film would be a gangland boss in the second half. This was a totally preposterous idea and just spoilt the movie. I just think the director wanted to cram too many ideas into the movie or wanted to make many movies but only had a budget for one. Either way it didn’t work and what could have been a perfectly adequate zombie-fest in a block of flats turned out to be a confused, illogical and shabby mish-mash.
The 2nd part of the movie shows an apocalyptic world over run with zombies, forcing people to live underground where the leaders surrounded by yet again more girls. These leaders force people to fight zombies for entertainment. Once again people are fighting to survive and escape this barbaric underground existence. But with zombies roaming above ground there is little choice of where to go. Some of the CGI effects look a little cheap at times and sometimes it looks great with some neat effects. The whole look of the movie, the settings and zombie makeup is really good. There is quite a bit of female nudity, semi-nudity, sexual content, a bit of lesbian acts, lots of blood and gore, some bad language and lots of violence. If you don’t any of that in a movie then go watch Frozen or something similar, as this is not the movie for you.
Dearest’s trailer is sensational, showing all kinds of crying faces and I was not looking forward to see it. But I like Peter Chan, Wei Zhao and Bo Huang. Well, I cannot say I like it but I think it is worth watching as it shows how disorganized and terrible China is as a country. And I think the director has presented all the facts in quite an objective way. Based on true events, Dearest tells the heartbreaking story of a divorced couple losing their three-year old son in the coastal city of Shenzhen and the ordeal of searching for him. Yet it is not simply a story of trails and tribulations, through the story of Tian Wenjun (Bo Huang) and Li Hongqin (Zhao Wei), we realize that child abduction is widespread in China, as with woman kidnap, and the heartless scam of people tricking parents of the kidnapped kids, and the ridiculous policy of allowing parents to have a second child only after proving their first child is dead.
What the movie did not show is what the abductors do to the children – be it training them to be thieves, or sedating them to be beggars, or child labors, or child prostitute, or selling them overseas or to parents who cannot have kids … More depressing truths. But what it shows is already thought-provoking and disheartening. I cried quite a number of times. For a child, it is sad enough being taken away from your family. But what is sadder is being taken away from another family again and could not recognize your birth parents. Wei Zhao is brilliant in this film and I think her performance is so strong it’s comparable to Julian Moore’s in Still Alice or Reese Witherspoon’s in Wild (one of them will win the Oscar this year). Wei Zhao is that good. She plays an innocent but determent mother from a remote village who descends to the southern city of Shenzhen to look for her son. Her motive is pure and noble but the complex situation, including her husband’s lies has put her in some pathetic situation.
It is appalling that this is based on a true stories as at the end credits, we see pictures of the original parents, the farmer, the abducted child and the support group of parents losing their children. Very impressive but sad because these abductions are still happening every single day. Another thought is, with such vast geography and disparity of wealth, the quality of the people are incredibly low. So low that they often resort to physical violence to solve problems – even outside the courthouse!
We heard about these abductions in the news and on the net but this is the first time I encountered these on the big screen. Looking around us, so what if you have your kid in safety in China, you need to shop around for reliable formula milk powder that is safe. That explains why Chinese are snatching up formula milk from supermarkets all over the world from Japan to Germany, let alone Hong Kong. Life must be very tough if you were born and being raised in China. There is no system, or if/when there is, it is inhuman and unreasonable, not to mention the widespread corruption that hinders justice. Under this kind of system, it seems it would be hard to nourish caring, rational and reasonable human beings who looks beyond money and short term profit. The ripped off paralegal Gao Xia (Dawei Tung) sums it up well though awkwardly in the movie: if people would consider others’ point of view this country would have been so much better. They have just forgot/ignored Confucius’ Golden Rule. How ironic. A great glimpse into the terrible life in China.
While I have no clue how to play (or better the rules of) Baduk, the movie was still very appealing. It also achieves to make the game interesting many times. We have a lot of games that have to be covered over the duration of the movie and each one of them is shot differently and shown in a different light, depending on where the story and characters are at the moment. But it’s not a “sports” movie about a board game. It’s also an action movie and those scenes are more than well choreographed! The movie is action packed and it has moments in it, that you might not expect. Not sure how the ending will go down with some, but I like the movie for not going the easy way.
The story starts out like it’s going to lead up to something really cool. But the movie just seem to get blander and blander as it progressed. The is a revenge story that has the board game “Baduk”, not the other way around. I must say everything about this movie is just straight up predictable. If you guess what direction this movie is going to go the chances are that you are right on the money. The cinematography is good and Ahn Sung-ki’s acting was impressinve and he still has that genuine charisma going. There is certain elements that are added into this movie that just doesn’t go anywhere. And it just seemed unnecessary for the movie as a whole.
Interestingly enough, the film never really explores the idea of revenge or morals. Many revenge films warn against the obsessive drive or question the main character in some way. Here, Tae Seok is pretty much our hero and that’s how it’s going to stay. The point is never raised that Tae Seok and his brother were cheating gamblers just like the villains, nor is Tae Seok portrayed as becoming the thing he hates the most. This is a pure adrenaline ride which wants to entertain you rather than make you question the events. If dark and tense action is your thing, then The Divine Move is certainly a film worth checking out. At a time when western action thrillers must skirt around a PG-13 rating in the US, it’s great to see a seriously silly brutal film that is both enjoyable and grim.
Three Times, from Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien is a lyrical, sensuous, but disappointing collection of three love stories set in 1911, 1966, and 2005. Marvelously performed by Shu Qi (Millennium Mambo) and Chang Chen, the film is both a retrospective of Hou’s earlier work, a historical study of a culture, and a cogent statement about how social limitations affect each person’s ability to relate. The message, however, that social restraints and modern technology hampers our ability to connect with one another is hardly new and, though depicted via Hou’s gorgeous minimalism, was not enough to allow me to become emotionally involved with the characters.
Utilizing a traditional three-act structure, the mood of the film shifts from one time period to the other but the position of the women remains significant. The first segment is set in 1966 and is titled “A Time for Love”. Uncharacteristically, Hou uses pop songs as background to the episode involving a chance encounter between Chen, an on-leave soldier and May, a young woman who works at various pool halls in different Taiwanese towns. The songs, repeated throughout the segment in the style of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, are the Platters 1959 version of the thirties love song “Smoke Gets in your Eyes” and the 1968 hit by Aphrodite’s Child “Rain and Tears”. Chen becomes attracted to May after returning to visit a previous pool girl to whom he had written love letters while away in service. Both watch each other carefully across smoky pool tables but are forced to leave and the remainder of the segment follows Chen as he attempts to track May in local pool halls across Taiwan. Though the first act contains some poetic moments of mutual attraction, it is mostly teasing in its elusiveness. May and Chen rarely speak and when they do, it is mostly about snooker. Nonetheless, Hou creates an atmosphere of tension as the lovers, perhaps like Taiwan itself at this time, must choose between remaining comfortable in their status quo or taking risks to engender more intriguing possibilities.
Set in 1911, act two, “A Time for Freedom”, takes place in a concubine reminiscent of Hou’s beautiful but claustrophobic Flowers of Shanghai. This 35-minute segment contains no dialogue, simply intertitles as in silent films and a tinkling piano in the background. Hou’s ostensible reason for using this device is that he was unable to recreate the Taiwanese spoken language of the period. Though this is understandable, I doubt if many would have noticed and the absence of dialogue for that long a period of time comes across as an affectation. In this section, the two lovers from the first segment are now reprieved as master and concubine. The master is a political activist who writes articles promoting independence and provides financial help to a concubine pupil to allow her to achieve the status of companion.
Unfortunately, he does not address the issue his concubine is most concerned about – her own personal freedom, and he remains indifferent as she expresses her longings, again perhaps reflecting the political idea that Taiwan was not capable of independence at this time. The final chapter brings us to the modern world of freeways, cellphones, and text messaging. The characters are a photographer, his girlfriend, a rock singer, and her own female lover. The singer is torn between these two lovers and I was frustrated by the intrusion of the female lover who acts as a brake on a fulfilling possibility between the two main protagonists, promised in the opening two segments. Though most likely true to the director’s intentions, the final section feels artificial and cold and Three Times, while bearing flashes of Hou’s brilliance, comes across as a cinematic exercise, an appealing concept that is ultimately unsatisfying.