Infernal Affairs
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Infernal Affairs
Hello, you've reached Raito's movie review blog. Most of what you'll find here is reviews of Chinese movies, because that's pretty much all I watch. :'D

November 2012
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Raito [userpic]

Woman Knight of Mirror Lake (2011) - A historical film about revolutionary Qiu Jin, I liked it for the most part.  The fighting was really fantastic.  Some of the best choreographed kung-fu I've seen in awhile.  However, on the other hand, the constant fighting distracted somewhat from the story, which had its own distraction problems in the way that it was told, jumping all over the place in time.  Huang Yi did a fantastic job though.

City Under Siege (2010) - On the other hand, this movie could have used more fighting and less attempts to make an already fairly silly premise into something sillier by adding drama to it.  The story is about some people in a circus, including hapless Aaron Kwok who wants to be Flying Dagger, but sucks at it.  They dig up some random Japanese bunker and get hit with mutant powder.  For some reason, Kwok's character gets all the powers but none of the bad looks.  Then there's the recently-fired news gal, Shu Qi, whose main job is to look amazing and the buttkicking team of Zhang Jingchu and Wu Jing.  Again, if this had just been loads of fights, it would have been quite entertaining, but the attempts to make it into something more fell pretty flat.

Shaolin (2011) - Another quasi-historical piece about an arrogant general who is overthrown by the inferior that he treats like crap.  He then learns the error of his ways by falling in with the monks of Shaolin.  It's a pretty obvious redemption story, but with some fantastic scenery-chewing by Andy Lau and Nic Tse.  You could almost see the sparks when they were in the same scene together.  Jackie Chan has a sorta brief turn as a Shaolin cook and demonstrates random crazy kung-fu.  Fan Bingbing is somewhat of a flower vase, but still has some good parts.  This was actually a really riveting movie so don't let the driveby status fool you, I'm just feeling lazy right now.

Raito [userpic]

This was billed as a sequel of sorts to Beast Stalker, but in the manner of Hong Kong films, it's only a sequel because of the two leads, Nic Tse and Nick Cheung.  It also stars Kwai Lun Mei and Sherman Chung.  Well, let's see, I expected this to be pretty good as I very much enjoyed Beast Stalker and had heard good things about it.  Sadly, it does not live up due to a litany of problems including Nic Tse's wooden acting and Nick Cheung's even MORE wooden acting.  The only good spot of acting is delivered by Taiwanese actress Kwai Lun Mei who shows herself capable of an expression and emotion.  The other problem with this movie vs Beast Stalker is that it utterly FAILS at making you care about any of the characters.

The plot is...honestly pretty thin.  It takes the title a little too seriously, being all about stool pigeons, or people in the criminal realm who betray their ilk to the cops for cash.  IN a role reversal, Nic Tse is the criminal and Cheung is the cop.  Nic Tse wants money for his sister, Nick Cheung wants to arrest some jewel thieves, Kwai Lun Mei wants to go back to Taiwan, and she might want Nic Tse too, but that's hardly played out in any tangible way.  What follows is a brutal montage of, well, brutality.  But the movie takes such a blase, monochrome look at it that it just sort of slides by on screen without any emotional attachment.  Again, compared to Beast Stalker that pulled you right into the lives of everyone involved.  Even the criminal as awful as he was, you could sort of see his point of view.  There is none of that here.

Another general problem is that Nic Tse really cannot play this type of role.  He simply isn't that versatile and the sad-sack low-life or the sad-sack good guy (Bodyguards) is just not in his range.  Instead he is overly wooden and fails to make you see anything in his character other than Nic Tse.

In conclusion, this is not a good movie.  Avoid, unless you really want to see Nic Tse get beat up for some reason.

Mood hungryMood hungry
Tags: action, buddy, nicholas tse, nick cheung
Raito [userpic]

I believe there should be a category of movies labeled 'quirky'. You know, those mildly pretentious movies that aren't quite dark or serious enough to be dramas, funny, but not so funny you can call them a comedy, and maybe even some action or violence, but again, not enough to actually be in that category. And then, their own elements that usually include a colorful cast of characters, a strange quest or plot point and a sense of 'there is no real meaning to this, but the way it's told you'll think there is.'

That's the category Half Cigarette belongs in, without a doubt. In it, Mountain Leopard (Eric Tsang) returns to Hong Kong after 30 years in Brazil (what is it with the Chinese and Brazil?) to get revenge on the man that stole his woman. Once there, he bumps into Smokey (Nicholas Tse), a low-level Triad wannabe whose mom was a hooker and who wants to know who his dad was. He also spies on a young policewoman (Kelly Chen) on her beat from his window. Not just spies, tapes. Meanwhile, he has some garishly dressed Triad who speaks random English after him. And his opening scene of chopping some guy in a bookstore for groping a hooker, comes back to bite him when Third Sister finds out.

Mountain Leopard has his own problems. He seems to be forgetting things and wakes up at 3AM to practice kung-fu. When he finally tells Smokey his story, we're treated to a long, rather violent but also darkly funny, flashback starring Sam Lee and Stephen Fung sporting polyester and 70's do's.

To be honest, I can't really say too much more about the "plot" without giving away the reason to sit through the movie in the first place. But as in many quirky movies, not everything is as it seems. And Nicholas Tse, in spite of all the flak he often gets, really is a very promising actor. He may not be Andy Lau...yet, but he's only had ten years and far less movies in that span than Andy Lau did. He was perfect here. Funny, confused, not as tough as he wished he was, totally believable in other words. Eric Tsang was great too, but that was more or less expected. At least, by me.

Also, the soundtrack, including a song sung by the very young-sounding Tse, was perfect. It stood out and augmented scenes, very like the movie I watched before this.

Mood awakeMood awake
Tags: eric tsang, nicholas tse, quirky
Raito [userpic]

I know I said I probably wouldn't post much about dramas, but I just finished watching this one, after spending a good couple of months on it. It's wuxia, of course, mainly what I watch, and furthermore, wuxia based on a story by Gu Long. Amazingly this one didn't end in a bloodbath.

The top-billed actors were probably Nicholas Tse and Gillian Chung, but it wasn't all about them, as is usually the case with dramas like this. Essentially the story was that a man from Paradise (Japan) comes over to China to look for a bunch of divine swords. This being the last will of his master. However, it's obviously not that easy, and his quest quickly falls by the wayside of the plot. Because the truth is, his teacher killed his dad, and his mom and dad were both betrayed by his mom's dad, and she was forced to marry someone else, and then had another kid. Meanwhile, the guy she married's brother was interested in her, but she rejected him, and in a semi-ridiculous scene, the former two jump off a cliff and are presumed dead for the rest of the story.

Whew. And that's the least complicated plot point. The main thing I didn't like right away was how they brought the backstory in before you gave a crap about the characters. It would have worked better told in flashbacks. It also made it too easy to guess that the mom was indeed still alive. But other than that, it started out with lots of fighting and Dazang (Nicholas Tse) being portrayed as somewhat of a bad guy. After all, he's presumed to be Japanese. After killing his grandfather and angering his half-brother, he somehow picks up Gillian Chung's character, Pearl, after sort of rescuing her from a smarmy guy, but really, he just seems to like killing people.

Pearl is also his half-brother's (Baoyu) childhood friend, so he has another reason to hate him. It's not too hard to keep track at first. A war between several sects is brewing, and all the major characters initially end up on opposite sides, and it's hard to tell who's good and who's bad.

The biggest betrayal of all comes about a good halfway through, maybe even later, i can't remember. And then the whole story becomes about the Imperial Court trying to stamp out the jianghu (martial arts world), and a complicated love triangle that ends up being a paper tiger the whole time. In fact, much of the conflict in this story is classic paper tiger. The only character who never lies to anyone is Dazang. The rest lie and keep secrets from each other the whole show, and create rather unnecessary conflicts by doing so.

But anyway, I'll stop giving stuff away and focus on other things. Firstly, the music was terrible. And when I say terrible, I mean, it has to be the worst soundtrack I've ever heard in anything ever. It was like elevator music and some of the themes were played at the most inappropriate times. I liked the opening song by Nicholas Tse, but purely as a song in its own right. It didn't go with the series, other than adding to the crappy choice of music for everything.

The acting was fine for the most part. Nicholas Tse plays brooding characters pretty well, but this one was perhaps the broodiest of all. He had almost zero impishness, and also, lost his interestingness about halfway through. Once the story was no longer about his quest and him pissing off the jianghu, it got decidedly less interesting. Then the story became more about Baoyu, who is one of the most annoying characters ever.

The first half of the show was pretty great. Lots of fighting and plotting and such. But the second half was pretty filled with melodrama and too much Baoyu emoing over one thing or another. I did think it was pretty funny though how the Dazang character seemed to be modeled off of Kenshin.

The end was also kinda gay, other than the deaths of two major characters, which was fairly expected, but at the same time, handled quite well. It's hard to say whether this kind of thing is preferable or higher body-count series like Da Ren Wu and Handsome Siblings. Maybe I'm just bitter about Dazang's awesome sword getting broken.

Mood blahMood blah
Music 劉德華 – 分开不要在雨天
Tags: dramas, gillian chung, nicholas tse, wuxia
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