Popping in for a spell

Popping in for a spell

Yi Lee
Mobian
Yi Lee
Mobian
Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 08:15

27 Nov 2017, 18:01 #1

Hiya,

It's been a minute peeps. I finished my most recent feature about two months ago. Had some professional certification I had to do that took a month to complete. Presently am trying to juggle Christmas vacation with the moms, location scouting/pre-production on the next gig plus trying to catch up with friends over the holidays who, however temporarily, just happen to be in the same area code for whatever fleeting encounter we can have before jetting off to their little corner of the world. Won't be able to go back to M'asia and S'pore for the Lunar New Year changeover from Year of the Rooster to Year of the Dog because, well, principal photography on the next show will be happening then.

I'm at a bit of a crossroads with the movies too. I'm finding the bubble of industrial grade commercial filmmaking good for the pocketbook but am increasingly frustrated by the fact everyone I'm meeting nowadays at this stage of my life is basically also working in the film biz. I've been talking with my college roommate and some others who knew me when I was less 'round the middle and had a fuller head of hair about trading in the security of Hollywood South for the far less lucrative world of independent documentary filmmaking just to have work that I can find more meaningful. And not be trapped in the asylum 24/6 with all the other card carrying loonies that make up a show crew (though Grip and Transpo are always alright by me.) There's talk about jumping back into academia and getting a university job in Asia where I can book direct flights to Kuala Lumpur so that my mom, who'd be living with me in retirement, can see my aging aunts and uncles--her brothers and sisters--any time she damn well pleases and not this 24+ trans-continental flight bull that we currently have to put up with. There's some talk about getting in the film biz making product for the Greater China market or possibly marrying academia with professional media and teaching students whilst moonlighting on gigs that I find interesting/fulfilling to work on whilst taking on a few star students in as interns and fully paid assistants... I became a naturalized American citizen in my twenties and those who know me from that period recognize that the idealism that lead to the decision hasn't faded. Options like the Peace Corps, Teach for America and AmeriCorps remain viable possibilities just as they were nearly two decades ago but when Malaysian citizenship prevented me from actually applying.

Just popping in to say that I'm still here but haven't been watching much in English since, well, it's like this. In high school I did a lot of food service work. Chinese restaurants (go figure), fast food, pizza joints. One summer I worked at a McDonald's. I thought it pretty fun back then. 5am to noon and I pretty much had the rest of the day to myself... reading, playing video games, wrenching on cars. What your average teenage boy finds cool. Anyway, I couldn't eat at the Golden Arches for about five years after that one summer. When I'm on the clock for a show, when I have time off on the weekend or in-between productions, I'd just rather do something else rather than the thing that takes up all my waking life for twelve to sixteen hours a day not including commutes. I watch The Good Place and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on broadcast TV but that's about it for English language media consumption. Owing to AMC and Regal's adventurous programming, though, I regularly catch a bit of Bollywood and Greater China stuff... I can't be bothered to watch stuff in English and I suspect one of the reasons why I work in the biz is just so I can take my mom to all those tony wrap parties. So she can post ironic selfies with stars on Facebook that all the relatives back in SE Asia find amazing/hilarious/how did you meet so-and-so, auntie?! My mom literally recognizes nobody even after I point them out. Like, Who the <bleep> is Jon Hamm? Get outta my way in the line to the shrimp bar tall white person dude and stop talking about that show about advertising in the sixties that clearly nobody has ever seen... That's not really a good enough reason to stick with a certain career path, however amusing my friends and I find mom's wrap party shenanigans to be.

As each year passes, I'm slowly becoming my weird great uncle Bob. I don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing... it's my thing, though, and I'm gonna own it. When WWIII starts under Trump, I'm going to be glassed like everyone else in Asia by that preemptive barrage of American ICBM's raining down the peninsula. And accidentally taking out 'bout half of Asia too--the bits without 'Murrican military bases and CIA black sites. I'm fine with that 'cause ('Murrica EFF Yeah!) and I get to die alongside my relatives before those "lucky" few in the First World have to live with the fallout of global nuclear winter. Oh please have Star Wars "Episode IX" come out before then so we can have some resolution on how effed up the whole Skywakler clan is. Let's see just how much more pear shaped this Ben Solo thing can get before my corner of the world melts away under blazing white mushroom clouds.

Anyway, happy holidays folks. Just checking in from my little corner of Atlanta.
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Kim Greene
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004, 22:28

27 Nov 2017, 18:30 #2

Hey Yi! Long time no write! Looks like you're going through some interesting and pivital life changes at the moment which sound fascinating. I've been meaning to step up my Asian film intake anyway. (particularly with Bollywood films) so if you got recommendations, just throw us some movie titles,lol. And I'd like some tidbits on what it's like to work behind the scenes on a Tyler Perry production, if you ever get the chance to,lol.

Just recently found out that actor Wood Moy, who starred in the Asian-American indie classic CHAN IS MISSING (which I really liked) just recently passed away at the ripe young age of 99---here's a tribute article and all:

The Hollywood Reporter

Yeah, I know it was an American film, but it was directed by HK director Wayne Wang (one of his first films) otherwise I would've written it up in the Arthouse section. That's another film I wouldn't mind checking out again,anyway.
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Yi Lee
Mobian
Yi Lee
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 08:15

28 Nov 2017, 13:00 #3

Hey Kim (and everybody else),

Thanks for the 411. I still peruse this place regularly; just haven't had the time to contribute to my liking. I'm in Locations so there's a lot of scouting to do plus ground pounding to make sure contracts are in place and permit offices are satisfied even before cast and crew descend upon a set. Lining up vendors and such. I like my department 'cause we're not completely in the bubble and there's a fair bit of negotiating with real world folks that are totally oblivious to the traveling carney circus that is modern film production. I'm the guy that makes sure our crazy clowns don't go out and massacre area families--but if it does happen, I hand out the hush money so it doesn't appear in the local news. Speaking metaphorically, of course.

In terms of Desi ents, I missed Aamir Khan's "Secret Superstar" when it came out plus Kangana Ranaut's "Simran," which was filmed here in Atlanta during the fall of 2016. There's a bunch of throwback policeiers coming out this Christmas that have piqued my interest plus the usual Shah Rukh Khan Christmas movie (Salman has Eid and Aamir, Diwali), which I'll indubitably queue up for. And a new Nawazuddin Siddiqui picture, 'cause I'll watch anything starring that guy--India's best indie actor turned shooting star. Oh yeah, and every one of Akshay Kumar's movies that came out this year was brilliant entertainment and socially relevant too.

Speaking of comedians turned thespians, Jackie Chan's "The Foreigner" is playing in discount theaters right now... I was too busy with certification to have caught it during its initial run. On the Greater China front I'm looking forward to Yuen Woo-ping's potentially lysergic "The Thousand Faces of Dunjia," a remake of his own "The Miracle Fighters" [1982] but re-scripted and produced by Tsui Hark this go-round (Raymond Chow handled the original.) Opens against "The Last Jedi" so who knows what the box office will be like.

Lastly, Tyler Perry isn't the only game in town when in comes to African American entertainment. Atlanta shoots here. So does Star--the spin-off of Empire--Greenleaf, Black Lightning (part of the CW's greater DC universe of masked crime fighters), original programming for BounceTV... the 404 is a chocolate city and lots of AA actors seem to be based out of here (or have a second home in the metro area) including Ludacris, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, Samuel L. Jackson (who seems to do a lot of media stuff for the Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs.) Only recent Tyler Perry dish I got is I pitched a musical sitcom starring a locally known R&B artist to some of his people last year. It didn't get picked up.
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Joined: 24 Oct 2004, 17:57

28 Nov 2017, 15:48 #4

I wish the mainstream Indian and East Asian films AMC is showing would get screened for the press and play at a theater that lets me in for free, like almost every non-AMC/Regal theater in New York. Also, the presentation at RANGOON was so bad - the lights were left on for the ads, previews and the films first 5 minutes till people left to complain to the manager - that I did not exactly want to run back to the theater.

But on the arthouse Asian cinema front, I'm excited that Wang Bing's BITTER VICTORY opens in New York in January. I think he's one of China's greatest directors right now (from the small pool I've been able to see) and I hope his win at Locarno last summer leads to wider distribution for his films in the future. I am also waiting for the John Woo and Hirokazu Kore-eda films the New York Film Festival rejected to get their New York premieres, as well as Hong Sang-soo's CLAIRE'S CAMERA (which does have US distribution.)

Have you seen Midi-Z's THE ROAD TO MANDALAY? For me, that was the big discovery from last summer's New York Asian Film Festival, and this is the consensus from friends who went to the festival as well.
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Yi Lee
Mobian
Yi Lee
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 08:15

28 Nov 2017, 17:17 #5

Hey Steve (and everybody else),

It's good to hear from you too. Speaking of Mandalay, Mandalay University is on my shortlist of places to work at in SE Asia. Curiously enough, the Chinese title of the film is "Farewell Mandalay." Friends have described it as a grittier "Comrades, Almost a Love Story" and being in my professional wheelhouse of labor migration issues. It's on my "to watch" list but unless Emory or Georgia Tech make a point of screening it, I'm kinda stuck with the commercial offerings that AMC and Regal throw my way.

Funnily enough, I'm reconsidering a move to Beijing and few others cities in the PRC that have concentration of good universities and a viable media market to work on some heavy social sciences-cum-labor migration/social mobility issues that would involve both grad school-level teaching and a documentary film component. I'm looking at Renmin and Beijing Normal Universities for the capital--both of which are geographically close to the Beijing Film Academy--plus a few places off the beaten path that are integral to the New Silk Road/One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Haven't put any feelers out just yet--it's still just the middle of fall semester over there--plus my mom's not too keen on moving to northern China so there might be slaving away a couple of years here in local 728 to buy her a new place somewhere in America or SE Asia that she'd be amenable with.

It'd be cool to work on the creative team with someone like Wang Bing or Jia Zhangke whilst teaching out of the Chinese equivalent of the University or Chicago or École Normale Supérieure... trying to make the financial figures make sense on my mom's end before I make the plunge. But then if I were to end up someplace like Mandalay, Burma or Da Lat, Vietnam or Savannakhet, Laos, that would be less of a financial concern.
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Joined: 24 Oct 2004, 17:57

30 Nov 2017, 03:41 #6

I wish ROAD TO MANDALAY had US distribution lined up. I haven't been to a ton of festivals, apart from the New York Film Festival, this year, but it's the best undistributed recent release I've seen in 2017.

Isn't Jia starting a major new film festival in China?
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Yi Lee
Mobian
Yi Lee
Mobian
Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 08:15

30 Nov 2017, 17:44 #7

Hey Steve (and everybody else),

Yup, Pingyao is absolutely sensational. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the cooler places that one can base a film festival out of. Just image search it on-line and you'll see... plenty of tourist webpages dedicated to the place.



[Wikivoyage on the city]:https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Pingyao

It's like waking up in Wuxia World everyday.
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Joined: 24 Oct 2004, 17:57

05 Dec 2017, 04:54 #8

Wow, great photos! I'll definitely google some more.

ROAD TO MANDALAY is much bleaker than COMRADES, ALMOST A LOVE STORY, although I can see some plot resemblance, especially in its final 5 minutes. Think Ken Loach or A TOUCH OF SIN. I can't really talk about the ending without spoilers, but wow!
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Kim Greene
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004, 22:28

05 Dec 2017, 12:10 #9

Yi Lee @ Nov 28 2017, 07:00 AM wrote:

Lastly, Tyler Perry isn't the only game in town when in comes to African American entertainment. Atlanta shoots here. So does Star--the spin-off of Empire--Greenleaf, Black Lightning (part of the CW's greater DC universe of masked crime fighters), original programming for BounceTV... the 404 is a chocolate city and lots of AA actors seem to be based out of here (or have a second home in the metro area) including Ludacris, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, Samuel L. Jackson (who seems to do a lot of media stuff for the Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Bulldogs.) Only recent Tyler Perry dish I got is I pitched a musical sitcom starring a locally known R&B artist to some of his people last year. It didn't get picked up.
Oh, so that's where STAR is shot----I like that show almost as much as I like EMPIRE, even if the main character of that show is a questionable person who's done some shady as hell things in the process of trying to make it with her group. (Incidently, the actress who plays the lead in STAR, Jude Demorest, is a Detroit area native---around the time the show debuted on Fox , the local news did a short local piece on her---according to it, she had attended the Marvin Winans Performing Arts School on Detroit's east side.) I've seen GREENLEAF advertising on cable whenever I go visit my friend, and may have seen at least one episode of it. I have seen at least one episode of the critically acclaimed Oprah-produced QUEEN SUGAR,though. Too bad your suggestion for a sitcom didn't happen.
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Kim Greene
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004, 22:28

12 Dec 2017, 12:29 #10

Finally got a chance to see the HK horror flick BLACK MAGIC WITH BUDDHA (1983) directed by kung-fu actor/genre star Lo Lieh (one of 7 films he directed.) Another martial arts star, the marvelous Chen Kuan Tai(who's still acting to this day, and just did a couple of films this past year) plays Ben, a man who wants to get ahead in life and is engaged to his girlfriend Annie (On On-Yu) but her brother thinks he's too poor to be engaged to her (which is ridiculous, seeing that poor folks have always gotten married anyway, regardless of how broke they were.) Ben's already gotten some help to change things---he and a wizard or shaman or whatever break into a Indonesian crypt as the film opens, stab a mummy, and promptly steal/run the hell off with its brain. This particular brain has the power to grant wishes for Ben's benefit, and since it uses black magic, or course the wishes are horrible. The brain starts getting more powerful, more pissed off, and acting out on its own, which means Ben has to go to another shaman (played by Lo Lieh himself, with a cool-looking wispy beard and all) to find out how to off this ugly, squishy pulsating thing once and for all. Lieh is actually low-key funny as the goofy shaman, especially when he teams up/merges with the armed-to-the-hilt God of Four Faces to fight off the Brain Devil (what they call the evil killer brain) and break its spell over Ben and his household. Anyway, a nice supernatural killer brain flick is just what one needs this time of year, especially if you're not feeling any Christmas spirit,lol----it's got a dark atmosphere, and is nice and old-school creepy (and gross) with subs provided:

Black Magic With Buddha---HK horror film

Just found out that the one and only John Woo has a brand spanking new action film out, called MANHUNT--it's a remake of a 1976 Japanese crime film starring the late Ken Takekura (the Japanese Paul Newman) and it's about a prosecutor forced to go on the run after being framed for murder. Here's Woo discussing why he wanted to do the film, what it was like shooting an entire movie in Japan (a first for him) and why he used this as an opportunity to get back to his film roots:

The Film Stage----John Woo On Getting Back To Action With MANHUNT

Here's the eye-popping, action-packed trailer for it---now that's what I'm talking about when it comes to action-packed thrillers:

Trailer for John Woo's MANHUNT
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Joined: 24 Oct 2004, 17:57

12 Dec 2017, 15:17 #11

As far as I know, MANHUNT has no US distributor right now, but I assume it will find one soon and get release here in 2018.

By the way, MUBI.com is going to start a weekly column reviewing the mainstream Chinese films playing American multiplexes. They started with a "year in Chinese and Hong Kong" film column, and the next entry will be on Yuen Woo-ping and Tsui Hark's THE THOUSAND FACES OF DUNJIA.
https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/contemp ... ear-so-far
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Kim Greene
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004, 22:28

13 Dec 2017, 03:17 #12

Cool----that means I'll actually get a review of what Asian films are playing at the local AMC theatres for once. Just took a peek at the site, and was glad to find out that there's another SPL sequel, since I really enjoyed the hell out of SPL 2 aka KILLZONE 2. Didn't know that actor Wu Jing (who co-starred in SPL 2,and another fave of mine) was now a director--that means I gotta look his work up with the quickness. Didn't know Yuen Ping was still directing,either---I thought he'd retired at his age (now mid-'70s) but apparently not. This means I have to check out the original MIRACLE FIGHTERS, since he's remade it--it's been on my to-see list for quite some time now,anyway. I'm currently catching on up some old-school Asian horror films I stumbled across on the tube while trying to find this 1983 HK ultimate killer snake flick for a friend of mine---so expect more upcoming crazy reviews about them. :D
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Yi Lee
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Yi Lee
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 08:15

13 Dec 2017, 16:57 #13

Morning,

 I just want to note that AMC and Regal aren't just doing Greater China programming. Depending on where you live, they've also been showing first run South Asian films (this past year featured a half dozen or so Pakistani movies but perhaps this was just part of some post-Salman Khan "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" [2015] wave) not to mention a lot of blockbusters from South Korea and anime from Japan. Owing to the unique mix of Latinos in metro Atlanta, there also seems to be a Spanish stream of programming with pictures coming from Mexico, Latin America, Spain and the Philippines. It's a pretty neat melange for middle America cinemas provided one lives nearby the handful of theatres in each state that have opted for the more multicultural scheduling. 
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Joined: 24 Oct 2004, 17:57

14 Dec 2017, 03:43 #14

Yi Lee wrote: Morning,

 I just want to note that AMC and Regal aren't just doing Greater China programming. Depending on where you live, they've also been showing first run South Asian films (this past year featured a half dozen or so Pakistani movies but perhaps this was just part of some post-Salman Khan "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" [2015] wave) not to mention a lot of blockbusters from South Korea and anime from Japan. Owing to the unique mix of Latinos in metro Atlanta, there also seems to be a Spanish stream of programming with pictures coming from Mexico, Latin America, Spain and the Philippines. It's a pretty neat melange for middle America cinemas provided one lives nearby the handful of theatres in each state that have opted for the more multicultural scheduling. 
I actually noticed a couple of Filipino films I had never heard of playing Toronto, and was perplexed at how they got distribution, since they obviously bypassed the usual festival route. If the Wu/Tsui film is playing the AMC Empire 25 next week, I might go see it. 
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Kim Greene
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004, 22:28

17 Dec 2017, 05:02 #15

@Yi

Yeah, I know----the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights,MI, also plays a small selection of Bollywood films, and last year they even played a Mexican-animated kids film. Filipino films rarely play in the D,for whatever the reason----even the one I would have liked to see that came out a couple of years ago---a crime flick called ON THE JOB---I'm not sure if it ever got any U.S. distribution at all. So, far, they're one of the very few of a handful of theatres scattered throughout the Detroit metro area that actually do so on a regular basis. 
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Joined: 24 Oct 2004, 17:57

17 Dec 2017, 15:43 #16

I am seeing Yuen Wo-Ping's THE THOUSAND FACES OF DUNJIAP (written and produced by Tsui Hark, although that's not the mark of quality it would have been in the '80s or '90s) at an AMC theater this evening. 
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Kim Greene
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Joined: 10 Nov 2004, 22:28

17 Dec 2017, 17:23 #17

THE SPOOKY BUNCH (1980)----Directed by Ann Hui, one of the early notable '80s HK New Wave filmmakers--this was her second film (she just did one this year, and is currently filming another.) This unique drama/horror flick/part-comedy tells the story of a traveling Peking Opera troupe---it's set in modern times instead of a period film for once--who are setting up to do some live shows in a town at the request of a particular rich dude. The goofy Ah Gee (Josephine Siao) wants to play the lead,and gets into it with the other leading lady about it. Meanwhile, a senior citizen named Dang (Hark Sun-Lau) wants his nephew Dick (Kenny Bee, also known as a famous pop singer then) to hook up with Ah Gee, because one of his ancestors was responsible for poisoning to death a whole regiment of soldiers, which has cursed the Dang family forever and a day. Dang figures if his nephew and Ah Gee get married, that will lift the curse. Meanwhile, those aforementioned ancestors come back as ghosts to get that long sought-for revenge,and one of them possesses a member of the troupe named One (Chung Kwan) and turns him into a playful,goofy spoiled child. Different ghost possess different folks to take them out. Another unique thing about this film is that it was made primarily by women---the director Hui,the screenwriter Joyce Chan, and both the producers,actress Tina Lau (who's listed as playing in the film--her character name wasn't listed,though) and the main star, actress Josephine Siao (who was a popular movie star then, and played the fun,childish goofy Ah Gee.) It's in Cantonese with English subs,so enjoy. Unfortunately, I don't know how to post links with this new setup,but it's on the tube to watch. Okay,wait a minute---I did it,lol👌

The Spooky Bunch---HK Horror part-comedy flick



 
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Yi Lee
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Yi Lee
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 08:15

18 Dec 2017, 11:35 #18

Hey Steve (and everybody else),

 So, what did you think of "Dunjia"? To be honest with you, am more keen on catching Feng Xiaogang's "Youth" instead as my holiday Chinese movie. I'm also curious to see what Matt Wyatt has to say about it given that he makes an effort to see a fair chunk of the new stuff that opens here in the States. 

(To Kim): 

 If you like that flavor of Chinese cinema. Here's a tip for you. First, "Dragon Gate Zombie Inn" opens sometime in 2018. Worth a gander for the title alone.
 


 Second, in the next several days (China) and months (Japan), the new Chen Kaige film "Legend of the Demon Cat"--based on a historical novel by Japanese sci-fi/fantasy author Yumemakura Baku 
(probably best known over here for his Onmyoji novels and movies, which he also adapted for the big screen)--is opening in theatres. It's a pretty audacious concept. Both Japanese monk Ku-kai and Chinese poet Bai Juyi are major historical figures... it'd be akin to having a period historical mystery with Shakespeare and Galileo romping around pre-Renaissance Europe caught between crippling superstition and emerging rationality trying to unravel deadly politico-religious intrigues. Think Umberto Eco's In the Name of the Rose-level awesome. Anyway, I can't see how this doesn't get picked up for distribution over here.
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Joined: 24 Oct 2004, 17:57

18 Dec 2017, 19:13 #19

I really disliked DUNJIAP. It's a film that seems to have made 75% on a computer, and I kept thinking about how one of the refreshing things about '80s and early '90s Hong Kong cinema was how its action and stunts had a connection to physical reality. The CGI is extremely slick but mostly ugly and not very expressive, and it's way overused. For instance, there's a scene where a character spits up a small amount of blood and it's obviously CGI. I was thinking "Couldn't the actor have held a little bit of fake blood in his mouth and spat it out instead?" Spectacle takes priority over narrative coherence, big time. This just struck me as a Chinese version of the kind of contemporary Hollywood films I don't like. Tsui's script/production contributions are no longer a sign of quality, obviously; I didn't even like his JOURNEY TO THE WEST film that got released in America earlier this year. 
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Yi Lee
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Yi Lee
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Joined: 19 Oct 2004, 08:15

19 Dec 2017, 15:26 #20

Steve Erickson wrote: I really disliked DUNJIAP....
Hey Steve (and everybody else),

 That sounds about par for the course for fantasy wuxia nowadays. I'd call it the deleterious effects of video game culture on Greater China--both imported games like World of Warcraft and Street Fighter but also all those locally produced massively multi-player on-line role playing game renditions of Journey to the West and Water Margin. There are still strong traditions of portraying martial force from regional opera/theatre and actual wushu but if you've been paying attention to this since the aughts, a video game sensibility has really enveloped in the genre--more so as boys grow up into young men with disposable income whose fill of bread and circuses are tied somewhat to teenage nostalgia and quality hours spent on consoles as only child latch key kids. Also, one could argue that there really hasn't been too much recent innovation in the wuxia genre of fiction--which I find odd given all the strides made in ethnography, archeology and anthropology in the past few decades... the stage is set for really well-research historical martial arts fiction taking place far away from Han Chinese-dominated cities but no, audiences are treated to potboiler of warring sects and eternal vendettas amongst competing martial lineages that seem to follow characters even though they flee the cities for refuge out in the sticks.

 I kinda have the same problem with South Korean cinema in that I've become inured to stories about gangland ultra-violence, crooked cops vs. demented serial killers and disaster movie spectaculars. Just gimme silly rom-coms, melodramas and weepies... which distributors never pick up for distribution over here for whatever reason. But they do that for Greater China and B'wood so I'm at least content with that stream of entertainment.  
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