Really Old-School CSI: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)

This is obligatory: Andy Lau is the MAN!!! Even when he’s in sucky stuff, you forgive him (at least I did for Resurrection of the Dragon), because for every bad movie he does, there is a decent one coming around the bend. He is the hardest working man in Hong Kong!

Tsui Hark: let’s be real. The man gave us Once Upon A Time in China. But he also gave us Seven Swords (the movie). He can be a little uneven, inconsistent. So in the months before the release of Detective Dee, I was nervous. Can Tsui Hark be the Tsui Hark that we love? It was all hush-hush, with really bad quality video being leaked out. But I decided that I was going to have faith in him…..

AND HE DID!! This is the Tsui Hark we know and love! He is absolutely in his element: using cracktastic special effects with an over the top Saturday matinée story that makes sense!  You go!

I really liked this movie. Is it Citizen Kane? No, and it’s absolutely not meant to be. This is why people (me) fell in love with movies in the first place. The story is not terribly obvious, the special effects make sense, and he does not waste Andy Lau, Carina Lau and Tony Leung Ka Fai in this. Yayz!

Let’s Do It Again

I love a good remake.  Let me say this again: I love a GOOD remake.  I’m not down for “reimagining” somebody else’s film just because you think you can do it better (yeah, Scorsese, I’m talkin’ to you).

So I’m intrigued when hearing about some interesting Asian film remakes on the horizon.

Donnie Yen is supposed to be revising the angry young man theme in his remake of Fist of Fury. I like Donnie, so I’m looking forward to this and I’m particularly intrigued by what he plans to do with all that anti-Japanese sentiment from the original.  When Jet Li when this route, you practically forgot the Japanese were even in this movie.

Then there’s the Dragon Inn remake.  Yes, it’s supposed to star Jet Li but what I’m really interested in is who is going to reprise the roles that made me want to be Bridgette Lin and Maggie Cheung when I grow up.  Any suggestions?  Michelle Yeoh seems like an obvious choice, but I guess we’ll see.  What did Tsui Hark forget to do the first time around?  I hope this is better than his Seven Swords soiree.

But this is the most trippy of all:  the Korean version of John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow.  I found this trailer, and I don’t understand Korean, but I immediately could tell that this was A Better Tomorrow:

Now, just cause you put on a white suit and some shades and roll with a couple of guns doesn’t automatically make you Mark.  But given my penchant for Korean film, I’m willing to give it a shot. And given the tendency for Korean films to be crazy good, this may be one of those remakes I love.

Seven Swords (2005)

The first time I watched Seven Swords was on the heels of Tsui Hark’s series version.  At that time, I was so enthralled by Vincent Zhao’s Chu Zhaonan that I didn’t really pay too much attention to the movie, but with some time on my hands, I’m giving it my full attention, and I got questions.

The movie requires you to know this story, because it unfolds on the screen so fast.  First, funky looking people are whacking villagers, next thing you know, you’re in the mountains with meteors raining down from the sky.  But I did like some of the changes Hark made, like making Yuanyin female, because girls can carry swords too.

But I’m most intrigued by Donnie Yen’s Chu Zhaonan being Korean. He wasn’t Korean in the series, and since the world has not seen fit to provide an English translation of the novel both are based on, I have no idea if this is original or of Hark’s own making. In the wuxia genre, outsiders are generally from “the West” or anyplace other than where our heroes originate.  Does it make a difference that Donnie is Korean? I think so; it underscores what I guess is supposed to be the character’s aloof nature.  He’s all anti, which makes the whole supposed love-relationship with Green Pearl not very believable…..that is, unless you  know the story. He’s anti because he’s not from “here” but making him from Korea puts a new spin on who he is as a character. Is it supposed to make him more noble, or more distant?

What I miss is the exploration of the relationships among the brothers, and between Chu and Yang Yunchong. In the movie, they just seem to be hanging out on Mt. Tian, and you don’t get a sense of the brotherhood.

What does remain is the crackaliciousness of the villagers.  They are supposed to be righteous, but they would sell out their grandma. Upright swordsmen come to save you, and you accuse them of being traitors. Where’s the love? Village leader willing to whack his own daughter with no proof that she sold out the village.  People willing to whack kids (how low!).  So much for doing it for the people.