The Myth (2005)

The Myth [神話] (2005)
AKA Jackie Chan’s The Myth

Starring Jackie Chan, Kim Hee-Sun, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Yu Rong-Guang, Sun Zhou, Maggie Lau Sze-Wai, Mallika Sherawat, Ken Lo, Patrick Tam Yiu-Man, Shao Bing, Ken Wong Hop-Hey, Jin Song, Yuen Tak, Hayama Hiro, Chan Sek, Park Hyun-Jin, Yao Wei-Xing, Choi Min-Soo, Ram Gopal Bajaj, Sudanshu Pandde

Directed by Stanley Tong

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.


One day in 2005 or 2006, I happened upon a Chinese DVD (without English subs) of The Myth in my library. Based on the cover art, I assumed that The Myth was a straight historical drama. Intrigued, I took it home to see if it had any fights. I scanned through the film quickly, didn’t see any, and then wrote the movie off until now. Imagine my surprise when I actually sat down to watch the film and I discovered that there is a wealth of action contained within it! And it’s really fun, entertaining, Jackie-style Jackie Chan action! Whoa!

The Myth begins during the Qin Dynasty, as General Meng Yi (Jackie Chan) receives a Korean princess, Ok-Soo (Kim Hee-Sun), who is to marry the ailing Qin emperor. During the handover, a Korean warrior attempts to kidnap Ok-Soo, but Meng Yi ain’t havin’ none of that. They clash in epic fashion, but Meng and OK-Soo become separated from the troops when they fall into a river fall below. As they hit the water, we are whisked to the future, as the respected archaeologist Jack Chan (Jackie Chan) awakes from a dream. This isn’t his first dream of the princess and a Qin Dynasty version of himself, and this troubles him greatly. As luck would have it, his next assignment — helping his friend William (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) uncover the secret of a levitating mystic in India — will shed a lot of light on these dreams. Who woulda thought it? It’s like a movie or something!

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Island of Fire (1991)

IslandofFire_1Island of Fire [火燒島] (1991)
AKA Island On Fire, The Prisoner, The Burning Island

Starring Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Tou Chung-Hua, Andy Lau, Jimmy Wang Yu, Yeung Hung, Jack Kao, Tu Fu-Ping, Chang Kuo-Chu, O Chun-Hung, Elsie Yeh Chuan-Chen, Chan Yin-Yu

Directed by Chu Yen-Ping

Expectations: Low.

onehalfstar


Island of Fire is such an oddly structured movie. It boasts a fantastic, all-star cast, but the way the story is crafted the characters never really come together to form a cohesive movie. Each character’s story could have been its own movie, but since this was a low-budget production hoping to capitalize on its cast, they just threw everything they had into it and hoped for the best. And by “everything they had,” I mean a bunch of recycled prison movie stuff, mostly from Cool Hand Luke.

The film begins with Wang Wei (Tony Leung Ka-Fai), a cop who witnesses the murder of his father-in-law. The culprit tries to drive away in his getaway car, but it explodes as soon as he turns the key. While investigating the crime and who this mysterious assassin was, the detectives discover that the man was a prisoner declared dead a little while back. So how does a dead inmate get out of jail to murder someone? Well, that’s what Wang Wei sets out to uncover by getting himself thrown into the prison.

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Quick Takes: The Dentist, The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself, Rise of the Legend

dentist_1The Dentist (1996)
threestar

Starring Corbin Bernsen, Linda Hoffman, Michael Stadvec, Ken Foree, Tony Noakes, Molly Hagan, Patty Toy, Jan Hoag, Virginya Keehne, Earl Boen, Christa Sauls, Mark Ruffalo, Lise Colleen Simms
Directed by Brian Yuzna

If there’s one thing that the majority of people hate, it’s going to the dentist. Now imagine visiting a dentist who just found out his wife is cheating on him, yanking away the last straw holding together his sanity. Sounds fun, right? Dr. Alan Feinstone has had a busy morning, so by the time he arrives at his office it’s a few hours late and the waiting room is full of eager patients. But he’s a professional, he can pull it together and get the job done. Or not. Feinstone’s lapse in sanity makes him kind of wig out when he’s looking at people’s teeth, seeing their mouths as festering maws of disease and decay in need of major restorative work. Corbin Bernsen is wonderfully deranged as Dr. Feingold, and the FX work induces so much intense mouth trauma that I felt like I was actually in the dentist’s chair myself. Especially effective are the large-scale models for the mouth interior closeups, allowing us to see every bursting root and tooth drilling in stunning detail. It’s not a perfect movie by any means, but it’s well worth a horror fan’s time.

dentist_2The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself (1998)
AKA The Dentist 2: You Know the Drill

twohalfstar

Starring Corbin Bernsen, Jillian McWhirter, Jeff Doucette, Susanne Wright, Jim Antonio, Lee Dawson, Wendy Robie, Ralph P. Martin, Clint Howard, Linda Hoffman
Directed by Brian Yuzna

The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself has what is perhaps the greatest, most pun-tastic sequel title of all time. The film doesn’t quite live up to expectations this brings, but it’s still a great sequel to the original film. While it continues to present a similar “festering mouths of bad hygiene must be punished” structure, the sequel actually goes off in a different direction that changes the tone. In the original film, Dr. Feinstone was progressively more and more batshit crazy, but in the sequel he has moments where we can sense the man underneath the madness. There are shreds of regret and thoughtfulness that endear the character, making you actually kind of root for him in this one. It’s not as effective a horror movie, but it is a great sequel that explores what makes the character tick.

RiseOfTheLegendRise of the Legend [黃飛鴻之英雄有夢] (2014)
threehalfstar

Starring Eddie Peng Yu-Yan, Sammo Hung, Wang Luo-Dan, Boran Jing Bo-Ran, AngelaBaby, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Feng Jia-Yi, Byron Mann, Wong Cho-Lam, John Zhang Jin, Julius Brian Siswojo
Directed by Roy Chow Hin-Yeung

There’s a lot of modern filmmaking techniques (such as quite a bit of CG, some Matrix bullet time, etc.) that should make me not like Rise of the Legend, but damn if I didn’t enjoy the hell out of this movie. This is the first Wong Fei-Hung feature film since 1997’s Once Upon a Time in China and America, but you should really do your best to put Jet Li’s interpretation of the character out of your mind before beginning this film. This is not your standard Wong Fei-Hung, instead it’s like a prequel of sorts (in a different way than Iron Monkey), and this version of Wong Fei-Hung bears little resemblance to the folk hero we’ve come to know and love. Has Wong Fei-Hung ever decapitated a guy on-screen? Well… he does in Rise of the Legend (and it’s quite a stunning decap, too). The more recognizable character does eventually emerge in the third act, and with it my big goofy grin also came to the party. Even the Wong Fei-Hung song made an appearance! The action is fun to watch, with great choreography by Corey Yuen and some really incredible wirework in spots. It’s a very visually modern film, and parts of the fights are awkward because of this, but the choreography shines through to entertain handily. Eddie Peng is great as a young Wong Fei-Hung, and Sammo Hung is his stalwart, badass self as the villain. Tony Leung Ka-Fai (AKA Big Tony) also plays a wonderful Wong Kei-ying amidst a superbly well-cast film. If you dig Wong Fei-Hung, I say check it out!

Three… Extremes (2004)

Three… Extremes [三更2] (2004)

Starring Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Lee Byung-Heon, Lim Won-Hee, Gang Hye-Jung, Kyoko Hasegawa, Atsuro Watabe, Mai Suzuki, Yuu Suzuki

Directed by Fruit Chan (Dumplings), Park Chan-Wook (Cut), Takashi Miike (Box)

Expectations: High. Good talent involved.


I’m a fan of extremes. It’s in my nature to like pushed boundaries and things outside the prescribed normal edges of taste. So when, just a minute or so into the first short, there is a shot so extreme and insane in its ability to shock and repulse that I’m ripped out of my haze and thrown headlong into wild fits of uncontrollable gasping and cringing, I am impressed. This is exactly what happened at the beginning of Three… Extremes, the sequel to the overall underwhelming Three.

Three… Extremes once again brings together three Asian directors from different countries and lets them loose to deliver whatever their hearts desire. First up is Dumplings from Hong Kong’s Fruit Chan, the director of one of my favorite Hong Kong films, Made in Hong Kong. But as much as I like that movie, I’ve never seen anything else from him, so I started Dumplings with a palpable excitement. Chan didn’t let me down either, as he quickly grabbed hold of the reins and never let go. This is easily the most extreme tale, which is somewhat disappointing because it’s first, but Chan is also the least well-known of the three directors here, so just like a nightclub line-up, it makes sense to place his film first. But it’s really a shame when your opener blows you away, and that’s exactly what Fruit Chan does to both Park Chan-Wook and Takashi Miike.

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