Archive for the Yuan Xiaochao (also Jayden Yuan) Category

Review: Tai Chi Hero (2013)

Posted in Sammo Hung, Yuan Xiaochao (also Jayden Yuan), Yuen Biao on April 26, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Yuan Xiaochao, Angelababy, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Eddie Peng, Daniel Wu, Yuen Biao, Peter Stormare

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Stephen Fung

 Tai Chi Zero was a fantastic mashup of kung-fu, comedy, special effects, and a great steampunk story, coming from the hit-and-miss Stephen Fung. This is the second (?) film in the trilogy, so can it live up to the original film’s success and deliver another steampunk epic?

Yes. Mostly.

The film picks up right where Tai Chi Zero ends, with Lu Chan about to marry Yu Niang, and once he does so he’ll be able to learn Chen style Tai Chi, but for those who saw the last film, someone was about to interrupt the festive proceedings. That someone was Yu Niang’s brother, Zhi Yang, who has returned home for more reasons than just to attend a wedding. His return tears open all wounds for the seemingly invincible Master Chen and Yu Niang, but amidst all this their old foe Zi Jing (Peng) returns, still smarting from the asskicking he received in the previous film, and vowing revenge for the death of Claire. He finds an ally with Duke Fleming (Stormare) of the East India Company, and both men plot to bring down Chen Village once and for all, and Lu Chan has to save the village and somehow win the love of his new master…and wife, Yu Niang. Can Lu Chan overcome his affliction using Tai Chi in time to save his people?

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Now that the novelty of the first film has passed, this film has to live and die on its own merits, and lives quite well. Xiaochao does a great job as the hapless Lu Chan, and as his affliction heals, he is great at showing Lu Chan getting smarter, which wasn’t really expressed as an issue in the previous film, but explains his actions in that film and parts of this one. Angelababy does a great job as Yu Niang, a nicer person this time out, now that she is starting to find that she does indeed have feelings for Lu Chan, and becomes a partner with him. Tony Leung Ka Fai is once again fantastic as Master Chen, and even better he gets a true story arc for himself this time around, and we find out the real reason he wanted to train Lu Chan so badly, and why the village was forbidden from teaching Chen style kung fu. Eddie Peng was pretty good as Zi Jiang, but he doesn’t get as much screen time here, nor does Peter Stormare. Daniel Wu gets a small cameo as a Mad Monk, and the makeup people did a good job as it took a moment for me to recognize him. Seeing Yuen Biao face off with Xiaochao for the final fight of the film was great, and while their fight was effects-filled, it still had enough good kung fu to be exciting.

Stephen Fung brings back his inventive transitions and visual storytelling techniques here, and doesn’t really go for the same tricks he used in the previous film, using more forced perspective, slow and fast motion, but just as the first film, the cinematography is still gorgeous.

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The fights are all special effects and wirework-heavy, but there is enough traditional kung fu and concepts for the more die hard traditionalists (of which I am one) to like. The best scenes are the series of fights Lu Chan must win, patterned after Tekken or Street Fighter battles, with costumed fighters of various types and even the VS graphic for each fighter, and the graphic of the fighters’ wheel of opponents as Lu Chan defeats them!

Is Tai Chi Hero better than Zero? In many ways it is more fun, now that we don’t have to be introduced to the characters and can just go for it, but the ending here, while hinting at the next film, isn’t as clean as the first film, and wraps things up too easily and quickly, and while I look forward to see how things resolve themselves, the ending of this film left something to be desired, but doesn’t detract from the fun!

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

 Tai Chi Hero is a worthy sequel that push-hands the fun with fantastic Steampunk action and kung fu asskickery! 

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Review: Tai Chi 0 (2012)

Posted in Fung Hak-On, Sammo Hung, Xin Xin Xiong, Yuan Xiaochao (also Jayden Yuan) with tags , , on October 17, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Yuan Xiaochao, Angelababy, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Eddie Peng, Shu Qi, Xin Xin Xiong, Fung Hak-On, Leung Sui-lung

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Stephen Fung

Steampunk is a sub genre of science fiction that has, pardon the pun, been gathering steam for the last decade or so. Steampunk is known for alternate histories usually set around either the Victorian British period or in the American Wild West in which steam power is the dominant power source that is used to create futuristic weapons, and vehicles like air ships. Lately books have sprung up, as have conventions, an entire subculture, and even a few movies like the Japanese anime Steamboy and The Wild, Wild West. Despite this, no film has really just gone all-in with steampunk, but now fans can rejoice, as director Stephen Fung has made a kung-fu film that without a doubt is as steampunk as it gets!

 

Tai Chi 0 tells the story of Lu Chan (Xiaochao) who is a kung fu prodigy, as evidenced by a small horn that protrudes from his head, the sign of a once-in-a-lifetime master. Strike Lu Chan’s horn and he becomes a glowing-eyed-kung fu badass, but there’s a catch. The more he fights the darker his horn becomes, and once it turns black he’s done for. As a child his mother (Shi Qui) steals money from his father (Andrew Lau, Director of Infernal Affairs) to give Lu Chan a future. It is at this point that two events occur that changes Lu Chan’s young life: he shows that he has the ability to copy a practicing kung fu master (Hak-on) and his mother’s theft is discovered, and she commits suicide, but not before making Lu Chan promise to be a great kung fu master. Fast forward to the present, and Lu Chan, after a great battle as a soldier, decides to go to Chen village and learn Chen style kung fu from Master Chen (Ka Fai), to reverse the internal energies that is slowly killing him. After arriving at the village, he is greeted by a town folk that will fight him, in order to keep him from learning Chen style, especially Chen Yu Niang (Angelababy), daughter of Master Chen, who is having problems of her own with Fang Zijing (Peng), her betrothed who has returned from the west, but a series of events, both heroic and tragic, befall them all, and Lu Chan finds himself fighting for a village that doesn’t want him, but he has no idea the steam-powered weapons that are aligned to bring him and the entire village down…

I’ve been extremely critical of Hong Kong films of late, finding many of them unimaginative and bland, while overseas other Asian countries are pushing the genre forward, but Tai Chi 0 is a great and thankful exception. The film has a rock n’ roll soundtrack, and the film has moments that come right out of Scott Pilgrim vs The World, like the use of text in places, giving the film a comic book feel. There is slapstick comedy, and there is even a Street Fighter 4-style K.O. moment that had me smiling, as ridiculous as it is. I’m trying to think of a film technique that Stephen Fung didn’t use, and I’m hard pressed to think of one. The story, with all the flash behind it, manages to tell a coherent and exciting story. Xiaochao is good as Lu Chan, balancing flashy kung fu fighting with youthful exuberance and handles the dramatic moments just as well. Angelababy also does a fine job as Lu Chan’s rival and potential friend Chen Yu Niang, and plays her as both sympathetic leader of her village and kung fu badass. Tony Leung Ka Fai (Bodyguards and Assassins, The Lover) plays Master Chen with a mischievous slant even in his most dramatic scenes. The best actor, in my opinion, is Eddie Peng as Fang Zijing, and he gets the biggest character arc, going from the village outsider who returns home a westernized educated man, to a man who finds a moment of happiness that is ultimately destroyed, to the greatest threat facing the village, and Peng plays every moment of his arc well, and I could sympathize with him even though his decisions turn him into the villain.

The fight choreography is also well done by the legendary Sammo Hung. It is well shot, and even though there are some quick edits, they don’t take anything away from the fights, and you can follow the battles without any problems. In my opinion the best fight are the scenes where Lu Chan tries to enter the village, and different villagers step up to beat him down, with even the neighborhood kids getting in on the fun. The other scene that really jumped out to me was the fight between Master Chen and the soldiers toward the end of the film. The choreography is really well done here, with wire work that actually becomes part of the story and not a distraction.

One caveat, and the one thing that drove me batty, was at the very end, where, and I admit I wasn’t aware of this, it ends with a cliffhanger followed by a trailer for Part 2 !

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9  

Tai Chi 0 is a steam-fueled roller coaster Kung Fu/Steampunk mashup that combines story, action and special effects to create a rocket-propelled piece of cinema. Bring on Part 2! 

Tai Chi 0 opens in North America Friday, October 19th!