Eversky.org A Dose of Asian Pop Culture & Entertainment

9Aug/080

Red Cliff (2008)

Red Cliff

A.K.A.: The Battle of Red Cliff
Chinese Title: 赤壁 (Chi Bi)
Vietnamese Title: Tran Chien Xich Bich
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Period, Historical
Starring: Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Jona Chin, Chang Chen, Zhao Wei
Screenwriter: John Woo, Chen Han, Sheng Heyu
Director: John Woo
MPAA: R

Synopsis
Based on Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms--Battle of Red Cliffs and events during the End of Han Dynasty and immediately prior to the period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China. Red Cliff is to be released in two parts totaling over four hours in length, with the first part premiering in July 2008 and the second in January 2009.

In 208 A.D., in the final days of the Han Dynasty, shrewd Prime Minster Cao Cao convinced the fickle Emperor Han the only way to unite all of China was to declare war on the kingdoms of Xu in the west and East Wu in the south. Thus began a military campaign of unprecedented scale, led by the Prime Minister, himself. Left with no other hope for survival, the kingdoms of Xu and East Wu formed an unlikely alliance. Numerous battles of strength and wit ensued, both on land and on water, eventually culminating in the battle of Red Cliff. During the battle, two thousand ships were burned, and the course of Chinese history was changed forever.
Source: IMDb

Rating: A (Excellent)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: A much anticipated movie from the critically acclaimed Chinese film director and producer, John Woo, that does live up to the hype. Being a fan of the history of the Three Kingdoms and the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (RTK), I was awaiting to watch this movie with caution as I am afraid that it will be butchered in some way. Fortunately, I can safely said now that this movie pretty much live up to my expectation. The cast that was selected for the most part fitted very well in the characters that they played (Takeshi makes a dashing Zhuge Liang), the script was well written, and the movie was beautifully directed. Many RTK fans will find that the movie does not follow closely the story from the novel, nevertheless, it stays true with the overall gist of the Three Kingdom story. Also, fans of RTK and action fans alike will be very satisfied with the movie as they watched many of the epic battles being brought to live in front of their eyes.

If you are looking for that one epic war film to see, don't pass out on Red Cliff--you will not be disappointed. Even if you are not an RTK fan, you too will enjoy the movie and most likely to become one after the movie.

Hopefully, the second part of Red Cliff will be on the same par with the first part, if not better.

6Jan/083

The Rebel (2007)

Dong Mau Anh Hung

Vietnamese Title: Dong Mau Anh Hung
Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Martial Arts, Historical
Starring: Johnny Tri Nguyen, Ngo Thanh Van, Dustin Nguyen, Nguyen Chanh Tinh
Screenwriters: Charlie Nguyen, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Dominic Pereira
Director: Charlie Nguyen
MPAA: PG-13

Synopsis
1920s. Vietnam under colonial French ruling. Anti-French rebellions emerge all over the country to disrupt the foreign occupiers. In respond, the colonialist employed units of Vietnamese agents to track and destroy these rebels. The film follows the journey of LE VAN CUONG, a French cultured undercover elite. Although branded with a perfect track record, Cuong's inner conscience is troubled by the sea of Vietnamese blood he had spilled to uphold a French washed ideal. Following an assassination of a high ranking French, Cuong is assigned to seek and kill the notorious leader of the resistance. Cuong encounters VO THANH THUY, a relentless revolutionary fighter and the daughter of the rebel leader. Cuong's superior intends for him to use Thuy as a mean to get to her father but Cuong soon has feelings for her. Thuy's patriotism ignites conflicts between Cuong's consciousness and his cultured faith. Will Cuong discover his inner-self and find love or will he continue his mission? The journey unfolds...
Source: Official Website

Rating: B- (Good)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: A delight film that holds great promise for Vietnamese Cinema oversea. This film is written, produced, and directed by the Nguyen brothers: Charlie Nguyen and Johnny Tri Nguyen.

At first I didn't know what to expect from this movie. Sure, the trailer looks interesting enough, but can it lives up to the preview shown in the trailer? Well, for the most parts I can say that it does. The film tells the story of Vietnam around the 1920s, with the French occupied the land and oppressed the Vietnamese people and a group of Vietnamese resistance trying to return freedom back to their people. Although the plot is nothing new, the film, nevertheless, is entertaining and action-packed. The film appeared expensive and well made. From the sceneries down to the costumes that people worn in the movie, everything gives off an authentic feel. Additionally, the action scenes are well choreographed--no wires or fancy cg, just raw martial arts.

I felt that with this film Johnny Tri Nguyen has finally got "the break" that he has been hoping for after all the time that he spent as a stunt double in Hollywood and for playing minor roles in such films like Tom-Yum-Goong, Cradle 2 the Grave, etc. While his acting skill is decent, he needs to work on his Vietnamese pronunciation. In some of the scenes I can barely figure out what is it that he is trying to say, and if there is no English subtitles I'm sure that I would be lost. Lastly, I think the movie can do without the love/intimate scene between the two main characters. It felt forced and contrived. I think that is my biggest problem with not just this movie, but many of the other films I have seen e.g. The Banquet, Farewell My Concubine, etc. I am all for love scene in movie, but only when it is necessary and essential to understand the plot of the film. I do not like love scene added to a movie simply because the film is trying to follow trend or simply because the director/writer trying to be risque/daring. Overall, it is a great action-packed flick that action fans everywhere will enjoy. Even if you are not an action fan, it is a good film to watch if you want a glimpse into the past of the Vietnamese people and culture.

6Jan/070

Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)

Curse of the Golden Flower

A.K.A. The City of Golden Armor
Chinese Title: 满城尽带黄金甲, 滿城盡帶黃金甲 (Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia)
Vietnamese Title: Hoang Kim Giap
Genre: Action, Drama, Period, Historical, Adventure
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou
Screenwriters: Yimou Zhang and Yu Cao
Director: Yimou Zhang
MPAA: PG-13

Synopsis
China, Later Tang Dynasty, 10th Century.
On the eve of the Chong Yang Festival, golden flowers fill the Imperial Palace. The Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) returns unexpectedly with his second son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou). His pretext is to celebrate the holiday with his family, but given the chilled relations between the Emperor and the ailing Empress (Gong Li), this seems disingenuous.
For many years, the Empress and Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye), her stepson, have had an illicit liaison. Feeling trapped, Prince Wan dreams of escaping the palace with his secret love Chan (Li Man), the Imperial Doctor's daughter.
Meanwhile, Prince Jai, the faithful son, grows worried over the Empress's health and her obsession with golden chrysanthemums. Could she be headed down an ominous path?
Source: Tribute

Rating: A- (Great)
Rewatch Factor: Medium
Comment: I watched "The Banquet" first before I watched "Curse of the Golden Flower". Thus, this movie reminds me a lot of "The Banquet", essentially both of these movies focus on the same tale that is a tale of love and betrayal. However, "Curse of the Golden Flower" leaves a deeper impression on my mind than "The Banquet". First, the sceneries, costumes, and decorations in this movie are all much grander and more elaborate than "The Banquet". I was informed that the battle scene alone took about two months and a thousand real soldiers to complete and with a budget of $45 million it is the most expensive Chinese film up to date. Perhaps, with all of those special attentions to the backgrounds and sceneries that make this movie so powerful. Throughout the movie I felt I was sucked in another world. Secondly, unlike "The Banquet" I did make an emotional connection with the major characters of this movie. I sympathized with the Empress and earnestly rooting for Prince Jai. Thirdly, this is a well directed movie. Every scenes has a smooth transition into another scene, thus I didn't experience the "lost" feeling and was able to keep track of the storyline. Finally, this movie has great cast. Chow Yun-Fat is convincing as the powerful and ruthless Emperor. Gong Li is captivating as a strong but fragile Empress while Jay Chou effortless pull-off the role of the loyal prince. All in all, this is a must-see epic historical film.