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Europa Report Review


Excellent

A bracingly original approach to both science-fiction and the found-footage genres makes this eerily realistic thriller well worth a look. Director Cordero may indulge in a variety of gimmicky and manipulative tricks, but he keeps everything grounded, as it were, and his expert cast makes sure that we are drawn into the story as it progresses. Which makes the conclusion startlingly intense.

After six months in space, the feed from the Europa One mission suddenly went blank, leaving Earth to wonder what was happening in humanity's first deep-space voyage. Unknown to the mission commander (Davidtz) in Houston, the six-person crew has continued on course to Jupiter's moon Europa, where they plan to explore whether there are conditions that could support life. When they arrive, their landing doesn't go quite as planned, and their experiments reveal things they couldn't possibly have expected. They also finally get a chance to send their video footage back to mission control.

What we're watching is an assembly of this footage, taken both inside and outside the ship as they travel, intercut with the commander's comments. Cordero directs all of this exactly like scenes we've seen from Space Shuttle missions, so it looks all too real, complete with a crew of complex experts. Marinca is terrific as the soulful pilot, with the charismatic Camargo and the curious Wydra as scientists, and the cheeky Copely and the intriguingly shaded Nyqvist as mechanics. This cast of acclaimed actors really raises the bar, adding layers of interest without ever seeming to act at all.

Continue reading: Europa Report Review

The Man With the Iron Fists Review


Grim

Rapper-turned-actor-turned-filmmaker RZA is clearly influenced by cohorts Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth as he indulges in this crazed pastiche of 1970s kung fu action romps. It's energetic and often quite funny, but far too silly to come together properly, mainly because he never adds any sense of post-modern wit. If the action scenes were more coherent, it at least could have been a guilty pleasure.

In a 19th century Chinese village, an American ex-slave (RZA) is known only as Blacksmith, forging weapons for gang members to raise the money to buy his girlfriend Lady Silk (Chung) from the local brothel's Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu). But their fate is caught up in a battle for power after the patriarch of the Lion clan is murdered and the swaggering Silver Lion (Mann) challenges rightful heir Zen Li (Yune). After a vicious attack by Silver Lion's muscled henchman Brass Body (Bautista), Zen Li is rescued by Blacksmith. And they get help from Englishman Jack Knife (Crowe) to fight Silver Lion and his thugs.

The title refers to something that happens about halfway in, when Blacksmith forges new arms for himself after being attacked by Silver Lion for helping Zen Li. This sets the stage for an orgy of metal-on-metal battling (there are also bronze and copper characters), leading to a clattering showdown between Blacksmith and Brass Body, who for some inexplicable reason can morph his body into, yes, brass. As such a wild fantasy, it's not surprising that the plot makes so little sense, although a bit more genuine character depth would have helped hold our interest.

Continue reading: The Man With the Iron Fists Review

Blood Brothers Review


OK
John Woo turns up as a producer of Blood Brothers, and it's not too surprising since the film is a reimagining of an earlier Woo effort, Bullet in the Head, which has a similar setup and plot points. Both films track the adventures of three friends from the boonies who seek to make it in the big and dangerous outside world but get much more excitement than they bargained for.

While Bullet in the Head is set in Vietnam during the war, Blood Brothers takes us back to the glamorous nightclubs of Shanghai in the '30s. Feng (Daniel Wu), Kang (Liu Ye), and Kang's brother Hu (Tony Yang) decide to leave their poor village and venture into town to see what they can make of themselves. It's rough going at first, with the guys taking on menial and humiliating jobs such as rickshaw pulling, but Hu lucks out by landing work as a waiter at the gorgeous Paradise Club, where all of haute Shanghai comes to party and to pay homage to the crime bosses who run it. The star of the show: Lulu (Shi Qi), who's the plaything of the big boss but is secretly in love with Mark (Chang Chen), one of his bodyguards.

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New Police Story Review


Good
How many movies have been made about "the tormented Hong Kong cop?" Fifty? A hundred? It's amazing that such a large group of emotional basket cases can solve a single crime. And yet they do, even if it means blowing up half of Kowloon and wrecking a dozen police cars every time they set out on a chase.

Sarcasm aside, New Police Story (which bears no connection to the many many Police Story movies that have come before it) is a very watchable addition to the genre. Its kitchen-sink approach gives us not only Jackie Chan in an unusually deep and nuanced performance but also a gaggle of Hong Kong cinema's young A-listers chewing up and kicking down the scenery as they portray badass teen criminals with enough time and money to indulge in a string of wild crimes.

Continue reading: New Police Story Review

Beijing Rocks Review


Good
If you're still harboring images of China as a sooty sullen place where countless millions in Mao suits ride bicycles down broad avenues, Beijing Rocks should serve as a nice loud wake-up call. Just a few minutes in we're treated to the punk rock stylings of the charismatic Road (Le Geng), who's all flowing long hair and leather pants, and his band of hard rockers, including his girlfriend, go-go dancer Yang Yin (Qi Shu).

Catching the tale end of their performance and the inevitable bar brawl that ensues is Michael (Daniel Yu), a poor little rich kid and well-known pop star from Hong Kong who's in town to learn Mandarin and hide out from the Hong Kong press, which wants to learn more about pending criminal charges against him.

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