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Curse Of The Golden Flower Review


Weak
A pageantry of pageantry that would put Bertolucci or Lean to shame, Zhang Yimou's The Curse of the Golden Flower piles spectacle upon spectacle, and tragedy on top of tragedy, until the whole contraption fairly disintegrates under the fervid weight of it all. Normally this wouldn't really be an issue, as late period Yimou films like House of Flying Daggers and Hero have been perfectly acceptable as period-piece baubles, rife with dynamic wuxia action sequences and dashing costumes -- things that Golden Flower has in abundance. While packed with emotion, those earlier films could certainly be enjoyed on surface detail alone, but there was still some heft to them; one doesn't buy for a second that Zhang Ziyi could fight like that without some help from gravity-defying wires, but the films were still able to dance that line between escapism and drama without leaving either behind. But Golden Flower can't dance.

Set in a royal court during the 10th century Tang dynasty, Golden Flower starts in and spends most of its time inside those same palace walls; which at first doesn't seem like a bad place to be. The place is a bejeweled rainbow of color, splashed with sunlight that sparkles off the golds, reds, and greens, and the camera greedily prowls its corridors looking for fresh spectacle. Yimou starts off with a feverishly choreographed ballet of servitude as hundreds of courtiers ready themselves in synchronized grace for the arrival of the long-traveling Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat, regally villainous). His three princes await him, each curious about how and if he is going to divide up power between them, as his health seems to be in decline.

Continue reading: Curse Of The Golden Flower Review

Curse Of The Golden Flower Review


Weak
A pageantry of pageantry that would put Bertolucci or Lean to shame, Zhang Yimou's The Curse of the Golden Flower piles spectacle upon spectacle, and tragedy on top of tragedy, until the whole contraption fairly disintegrates under the fervid weight of it all. Normally this wouldn't really be an issue, as late period Yimou films like House of Flying Daggers and Hero have been perfectly acceptable as period-piece baubles, rife with dynamic wuxia action sequences and dashing costumes -- things that Golden Flower has in abundance. While packed with emotion, those earlier films could certainly be enjoyed on surface detail alone, but there was still some heft to them; one doesn't buy for a second that Zhang Ziyi could fight like that without some help from gravity-defying wires, but the films were still able to dance that line between escapism and drama without leaving either behind. But Golden Flower can't dance.

Set in a royal court during the 10th century Tang dynasty, Golden Flower starts in and spends most of its time inside those same palace walls; which at first doesn't seem like a bad place to be. The place is a bejeweled rainbow of color, splashed with sunlight that sparkles off the golds, reds, and greens, and the camera greedily prowls its corridors looking for fresh spectacle. Yimou starts off with a feverishly choreographed ballet of servitude as hundreds of courtiers ready themselves in synchronized grace for the arrival of the long-traveling Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat, regally villainous). His three princes await him, each curious about how and if he is going to divide up power between them, as his health seems to be in decline.

Continue reading: Curse Of The Golden Flower Review

Fearless Review


Grim
Jet Li has touted Fearless as his last martial arts film, at least in his studied style of Wushu. In its initial run in East Asia, the film out-grossed both Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers. Within those facts we have surefire proof that the weaker films will always survive, no matter what continent, country, state, or township you're in.

The film centers on a challenge set upon famed martial artist Huo Yuanjia (Li), the famed master of Wushu, in the early 1900s. After facing three British masters of weaponry, Huo must prepare for the challenge of Tanaka (Shidou Nakamura), the Japanese champion. Politicians have schemed to make sure that Tanaka won't lose, but don't count Hou out quite yet.

Continue reading: Fearless Review

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Review


Excellent
If you thought the only real place for gravity-defying fight scenes was The Matrix, think again. One of today's most diverse directors, Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm), has not only found the perfect venue for such combat - the classic samurai movie - but has injected his action with poetry and meaning. In Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, stars like Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh gracefully zip through the air in this breathtaking Chinese fable about love, loyalty, and destiny.

It's tough not to get a kick out of this operatic movie. There's fateful romance, legendary themes of honor and determination, strong heroines, and, oh yeah, that butt-kicking action.

Continue reading: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Review

The House Of Flying Daggers Review


Excellent
A poet of the small gesture, Zhang Yimou moves on from his slice-of-life dramas Not One Less and Happy Times to the more broad, operatic strokes of Hero and The House of Flying Daggers. The resulting House is an astonishing work of cinematic beauty; filled with strong primary colors and evocative storybook forests of green bamboo or autumn leaves. The sound design is remarkable, staging a series of ritualistic combat scenes between policemen and assassins that are stunning in their brevity -- focusing the attention on the swish of cloth, the murmur of breath, or the rush of a cool breeze.

That said, House of Flying Daggers is basically a love triangle set against the backdrop of an epic political struggle. As the Tang Dynasty wanes and the emperor drowns in incompetence and sloth, an underground movement known as the House of Flying Daggers takes action, Robin Hood style. As they rob from the rich and give to the poor, the police decide to infiltrate this underground through the capture of their sleeper agent, a blind dancer, Mei (Zhang Ziyi), hiding out at the classiest brothel in town. She is drawn out by police captains Leo (Andy Lau), a stern disciplinarian, and flirtatious pretty boy Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro).

Continue reading: The House Of Flying Daggers Review

Zhou Yu's Train Review


Weak
Zhou Yu's Train is a movie in motion. By the time it's over, you'll have seen a good deal of rural China, not to mention a corner of Tibet. As Zhou Yu (Gong Li) rides the rails back and forth between her two boyfriends, you'll feel her confusion and her wanderlust, but you'll feel boredom and a little motion sickness, too.

A young and beautiful woman who doesn't know what she wants out of life, Zhou Yu seems to think that as long as she keeps moving, she won't have to make any tough decisions. She uses the time off from her job painting ceramics to travel hundreds of miles twice a week to visit her boyfriend, Chen Qing (Tony Leung Ka Fai), a librarian who writes and recites florid love poetry.

Continue reading: Zhou Yu's Train Review

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