Archive for the Yu Hai Category

Review: Man Of Tai Chi (2013)

Posted in Iko Uwais, Keanu Reeves, Silvio Simac, Tiger Hu Chen, Yu Hai, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on March 31, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

MOTC2

Starring Keanu Reeves, Tiger Chen, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, Silvio Simac, Iko Uwais, Yu Hai

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves is a polarizing figure. With his eternal surfer-dude voice and his connection to Bill and Ted that will haunt him until the end of time, he’s been a success in Hollywood even though his acting is somewhat monotone in nature (Kevin Costner’s been accused of this as well). The Matrix films featured Keanu doing complex martial arts fighting akin to what was current in Hong Kong kung-fu cinema (thanks to Yuen Woo Ping and his stunt team) and now Woo Ping returns, along with Tiger Chen, a stunt man in the Matrix films that Reeves befriended, and a bevy of martial arts stars to tell the tale of what happens when a good man falls from grace. 

The results are…hmm.

The story begins as we meek Donaka Mark (Reeves) a wealthy owner of a securities firm that is a front for underground fighting. His latest fighter refuses to kill his opponent, and is himself killed by Mark. Always on Mark’s tail is Hong Kong detective Jing Shi (Mok) who always seems a few steps behind Mark. Mark begins a search for a new fighter, which brings him to Tiger Chen (Chen), a Tai Chi fighter who has entered tournaments to prove that Tai Chi is a fighting art as well, to the dismay of his master Yang (Yu Hai). Mark becomes facinated with Tiger, and has him followed, with cameras placed around his apartment and at his parents home. Tiger is a good man who works as a delivery driver, and tries to provide for himself and his mother and father. Mark uses what he finds out to entice Tiger to become his new fighter. Tiger does this, as he has a violent tendency that Mark is able to feed, despite Tiger’s training. Tiger soon enters Mark’s world, and as the fights and stakes pile up, Tiger finds that the good man he is has disappeared, replaced by someone he barely knows. In essence, Tiger goes over to the Dark Side of the Force…

MOTC

The film is fairly straightforward and doesn’t offer any real surprises, and the script here really fails Reeves the Director. The main characters aren’t that interesting except for Simon Yam, and that’s just because he’s Simon Yam. Tiger is decent, but doesn’t really have the intense charisma I was looking for, even though his martial arts was excellent. Karen Mok plays the HK detective plainly, and Reeves acts pretty much as if he were still Neo from The Matrix, except for a few moments when he yells or screams or smiles/laughs maniacally, and those moments have given me nightmares, ‘cause it looks scary as hell–unintentionally. A face that has no emotion and then suddenly shows an extreme outburst of it is…disconcerting to say the least. I was extremely disappointed by the use of Iko Uwais here, and anyone who has seen The Raid, and by now The Raid 2 will agree. This could have been the fight of the film, and instead is a dud of a fight as the story intrudes at the wrong time.

The fighting here is done well, with one large exception. Yuen Woo Ping does a good job, but I can see there are issues with fusing his style with the harder styles of films choreographed by the likes of Panna Rittikrai and Yayan Ruhian. All of the matches Tiger gets into are good to great, the weakest being the fight versus Silvio Simac, a performer I know could have given a far better fight than they gave him. The film was supposed to be using a new motion camera to track the fights, but it wasn’t the game changer it was touted to be. The problem here is that no matter how long the fight is, it has to be edited, so that takes away from the moving 360- degree camera movements. 

MOTC4

The end fight of this film was the real disappointment. Reeves needed to remember that no matter how good he looked in The Matrix, he is NOT a martial artist, and has not been learning long enough to look good when put up against true martial artists. Here, he fights Tiger Chen in a fight that has none of the complexity of the other fights that came earlier in the film, ones that featured real fighters. His kicks were the weakest I’ve ever seen, but his fist work was passable (barely) and this reminded me of Man With The Iron Fists, and my anger at the hubris of the RZA for playing the main character even though he knew no martial arts. That same anger returned here. Reeves the Director could have cast Donaka Mark with Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White (if he has to be from America/Canada) or any number of other Asian actors, someone who would have made the final fight memorable. 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

I expected so much more, but there is a hint that Reeves could be a good director, but he has to know when to leave Keanu Reeves the actor at home.

 

Advertisements

Review: Shaolin (2011)

Posted in Andy Lau, Jackie Chan, Jacky Wu Jing, Nicolas Tse, Xing Yu, Yu Hai with tags , on September 10, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Andy Lau, Jacky Wu Jing, Nicolas Tse, Jackie Chan, Xing Yu, Fan Bing Bing, Yu Hai

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by Benny Chan

Years ago the Shaolin temple teamed with a film production company to bring an awareness of Shaolin to the masses, and made the film Shaolin Temple, which turned little know wushu star Jet Li into a star. Fast forward to 2011, and the Shaolin have once again opened their doors to a large scale production that many call a remake of Shaolin temple, but it is really more of a reimagining. An all star cast jumps aboard, along with Corey Yuen and director Benny Chan (Who am I? and New Police Story) and a $200 million dollar budget to tell the story of the destruction of the Shaolin temple…

The film opens as we find China in the midst of a war where warlords feud against each other, and after a brutal battle the lord of the province is taken in by the Shaolin monks, who try to tend his wounds, but the beaten lord is found by Hao Jie (Lau) and his right hand man Cao Man (Tse). Lao is a brutal and evil man who shows no mercy and kills the lord. Hao takes DengFeng City, the city nearest the temple, and is not too thrilled that he has to share it with his wife’s uncle Commander Song, who wants to marry his son with Hao’s daughter, but Hao has other plans, and plots to kill Song. During the night of the attempted assassination Hao finds the tables turned on him and his family as Cao Man betrays him, and Hao must flee, and is taken in by the Shaolin temple, where Hao must face the consequences of his actions against others, and with the help of the cook (Chan) and the head instructor Jing Neng (Wu Jing) Hao must save the prisoners Cao Man has taken and help the Shaolin monks repel an army bent on destroying what’s left of the villagers…

Shaolin is a great film, but be warned it is really more of a drama that has martial arts in it than the other way around, but for this story that’s fine. Toward the end there is still enough martial arts to satiate the palette of the most discerning martial arts film fan, or to put it bluntly plenty of asses get kicked. Corey Yuen’s fight choreography is well done here, and is staged perfectly. The only caveat is that there is just a bit more wirework than I would’ve wanted, but that’s more of a personal issue for me. Shaolin is also a beautiful film, and the first thing you’ll notice is the fantastic cinematography. The scenes are staged so that the sets and backgrounds can be seen in all their glory. The destruction of the temple toward the end of the film is nothing short of spectacular.

All of the actors involved do a fantastic job, starting with Andy Lau, who is great as Hao, and is convincing in his transformation from confident evil warlord to repentant monk. Nicolas Tse is also good as Cao Man, a man more ruthless than Hao, and his story arc and conclusion is satisfying and appropriate. Jacky Wu Jing is also good as the head instructor, but isn’t as memorable as his character should’ve been(this may have been due to the interpretation of the character within the script). His fights were excellent, however. One other possible reason why he’s not as great as he should’ve been was because of the work of Xing Yu as his second, and this is an actor who has been in many martial arts films (Ip Man and Flashpoint come to mind) and dang it, he needs to get a starring role in something. He’s got a great on-screen presence, and his kung fu is pretty darn good as well. He outshines Wu Jing in every scene they have together. Jackie Chan is also good as the Shaolin cook Wu Dao who isn’t disciplined enough to be a monk, and the Abbot is trying to get Dao to see the world, but he’s too scared to leave. He gets a good fight scene that isn’t classic Chan, but close enough to see he has one last good/great fight scene left in him.

One great bit of casting is bringing back Yu Hai, who played the original head instructor in Jet Li’s Shaolin Temple, now plays the Abbot in this film, and shows that he’s still got a few fighting moves left in him! If you are a fan of Shaolin Temple, you’ll be tickled pink to see him again. It’s an extra bonus to an already good film.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) The fights are really good, and there could’ve been more, but this is a drama first before an action film, but Corey Yuen does a great job here. Wu Jing’s final fight is great, but Xing Yu really steals the show here, especially at the end. Nicolas Tse versus Jacky Wu Jing toward the beginning is also a highlight.

STUNTWORK: (9) They really went all out for this, and the fall of the temple was impressive, especially since the explosions take place so close to the stuntmen. Andy Lau did some impressive stunts himself.

STAR POWER: (10) Heavens, just read the cast list. ‘nuff said.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Shaolin is a great film, that explores one man’s spiritual transformation amidst the backdrop of the spectacular fall of the Shaolin temple.

Review: Shaolin Temple (1982)

Posted in Jet Li, Yu Hai with tags , on June 24, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jet Li, Yu Hai, Ding Laam

Fight Choreography by Ma Xian Da, Yu Hai, Wang Chang Kai

Directed by Chang Hsin-Yen

In 1980 the secretive  Shaolin temple found itself at a crossroads of sorts. There were not too many new monks coming in, and the temple was finding it difficult to survive without funds. So, in an effort to garner new students the Shaolin Temple teamed up with a Hong Kong production company to make a movie that would showcase Shaolin style kung-fu. The production would be the first time a Hong Kong film would be shot on the Chinese mainland. The background actors would be the monks themselves, and for the star a little known 17-year-old martial arts wunderkind who had won many championships was chosen. His name was Jet Li, and this is where he began his film career.

The film takes place between the Sui and Tang Dynasties, and Jet Li plays Juen Yuen, a young man who, along with his father, a famous kung-fu fighter, are turned into slaves by General Wang. Yuen’s father gets into fight with some of the soldiers and then with Wang himself, and is killed, but not before Yuen is able to escape. Injured and suffering the loss of his father, Yuen makes his way to the Shaolin temple, where he is cared for and allowed to stay by the monks there, much to the dismay of the Abbot’s second.

While he recovers, Yuen is able to watch the monks practicing kung-fu in a great scene of the monks showing off their various forms and styles and weapons, and this leads to what may be one of the most jacked-up scenes ever, as the dog of a girl he likes, named Bai, disrupts his watching the monks in secret, and he accidentally kills the dog, and what he does with the dog after that just defies, well, you just have to see it for yourself. It’s both laugh out loud and cringe inducing all at once.

Yuen does join the monks, but his thirst for revenge always seems to undo everything he has learned about tolerance and forgiveness, as he fights General Wang and his men again and again, but saves Bai as he does so (there is another scene where the soldiers attack her and what they do to the sheep…damn. If you are a member of PETA just steer clear of this film.)

Yuen’s constant attacks, and then saving a rebel Wang is looking for leads to an epic battle as Wang attacks the temple itself, and the monks finally have to defend themselves or fade into history…

Look, let it be known that without a doubt this is a big time propaganda film for the Temple. Even the theme song sounds that way.  Having said that, it’s not a bad film, but may best be known as the film that started Jet Li’s career. The story is decent but nothing that hasn’t been done before in different dressing, but there are fun moments to be had, such as when the master always seems to find some way to justify doing something that a monk shouldn’t do, such as eat meat or kick some ass. It’s hilarious to see the gears turning in his head as he comes up with some buddhist explanation that his students and Yuen are all too eager to accept. Jet does a pretty good job as the star of the film, especially for a first time actor.

The fight scenes start off fairly well but gets better as the film progresses. The field fight and the assault on the temple are the highlights of the film, and while not as smooth as what we may be used to seeing, the fights are very well choreographed and has a flow all its own.

Where the film really falls astray of greatness is in the actual production values of the film itself. The camerawork is shoddy at best, and there are scenes, particularly the night-time fight scenes that are horrendous not because the fights are bad, but because the lighting is terrible, and leaves parts of those fights to the imagination. The editing also has some baffling moments, where they do a cross fade within the same fight scene. Cross fade editing is supposed to be used as a transition from one scene to another, not to be used in a fast paced fight scene that isn’t in any sort of transition.

Despite this the film did very well, and sparked several sequels, and really did spark a new popularity in China for martial arts films, and introduced the world to Jet Li.

(On a scale of 1-10. 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Well done, but not the best ever. It does a great job of showing off the Shaolin fighting style compared to other styles in the film. Jet Li has the most complex stuff, and does well with it.

STUNTWORK: (7) These stuntmen took some nasty looking falls and flips here, and while some wasn’t the best acted, they brought energy to their scenes, some of which looked difficult especially when dealing with the fight choreography.

STAR POWER: (6) When this film came out no one knew who any of these actors are, but Jet Li would go on to become a great star, one of Hong Kong’s biggest ever.

FINAL GRADE: (7) Shaolin Temple isn’t the best film in the world, but it gave us a look inside the philosophy of the temple itself and the style, and gave us Jet Li. That alone makes this worth a look.