Sunday, February 10, 2008


Happy lunar new year! A brand new year starts while we welcome the year of the rat. Hopefully it'll be a good year for us since we got 2 big rats at home (yes, Misa and Kiki since they belong to the rodent family). It's a good long weekend, and with so much good food around it's easy to grow fat. Well, we've got to treasure this period as it's the last of the major festivals/holidays for the next few months.

Although me and Mabel don't get ang pows anymore, I believe it's happier to give them out instead. Sure we lose the extra "income" and instead need to fork out some money to give to the minors, but I think it's good to give our blessings to the younger generation, and in turn we will also get blessed with good luck..... something money definately cannot buy. Since the last post, I've also grown a year older. My birthday fell in the 2nd day of new year, and I was quite happy to receive a few angpows too for the occasion. Mabel cooked me a fantastic supper at night. Looked simple but it was filled with good stuff in between the fish balls and crab sticks. Not too young now, but again I'd like to give this quote "You don't stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing."

We watched 2 movies this festive weekend, namely shows from Hong Kong which were specialled released in the new year period. As some of you know, I'm not a big fan of Hong Kong cinema, largely due to the lack of creativity and perhaps the lackluster visuals, being not worthy of the justification of the over priced tickets. Still, Mabel ignored my pleas to watch Cloverfield a few weeks ago but I didn't really have the option to reject her since she really wanted to watch these 2 movies. I've got quite a lot to say about the 2 movies, so pardon my nagginess and read on. First up, Stephen Chow's CJ7 (长江7号). Personally, I felt that although the last few movies by Chow were block office successes, they lacked the punch of his yesteryear movies. But that's to be expected, given that he's grown much older since the days were he was still the Saint of Gamblers or the undercover cop who fought back to school. Since Shao Lin soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, I've always thought that the movies he made, while entertaining, could be better, instead of relying on the same formula again and again. This is so especially true when it comes to the casting. The same people keep making appearances in his past few movies, and although I understand that it was done on purpose and reflect some type of connection (e.g. the car mechanic in Shao Lin soccer who wore his shorts really high, also showed up in CJ7 with the exact same trademark), it has become quite irritating. Another point is that Chow loves to reference his old movies. In Kung Fu Hustle, there were references to Shao Lin soccer. In CJ7, there were references to both Shao Lin soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. It might seem cool at first, but now it has become some sort of a overkill.
On to the movie itself, and spoilers are abundant so beware! For the most part, I found the movie, while short and predictable, provided a wholesome experience for the movie viewer. It told of a simple story of love between a father and a son, and of course the laughs were added by an extra-terrestrial being named after a toy line. Stephen Chow himself was not cast as the main star this time, and most of the screen time went to a 10 year old actress (yes, actress) named Xu Jiao, who's role in the movie was Chow's son. Chow, a coolie, could not afford to get his son the toy he wanted, and inadvertably picked up a creature from outer space and gave it to him as a gift. As I mentioned, the plot was as straight as an arrow, and the moment Chow received the bonus from his boss I knew he was going to die. It was obvious, since CJ7 had the ability to restore cells in any object, inanimate or otherwise. There were a few truly bone tickling scenes, but also some tear jerking ones. I wasn't affected, but Mabel's tears were flowing away when Dicky knew of his father's tragic death.

On the whole, I'd give CJ7 a 3 out of 5. Not Chow's best work to date, but the movie served good entertainment, and there were few flaws about the plot (for a comedy). Save the re-used jokes and characters, and spare us the references, and I'm sure his next film will be better. And I don't mean the upcoming Dragonball flick. I've got next to zero hopes for that one. :(
The next day, we went and watched Kung Fu Dunk. A few months back, the rumors began that Jay Chou was going to star in the movie version of Slam Dunk. Of course, I knew that this was bad news. There was no way that he was going to pull it off, considering the fact that the manga spanned over 30 volumes and is a fan favourite even a decade after it ended. Thankfully, it turned out that he was making a separate movie not related to the manga. This way, even if he failed, he wouldn't be tarnishing any names. And as expected, I thought this movie bombed. Badly, too. It was without a doubt one of the worst movies I've seen at the theaters in quite some time. I'll begin by saying that I love Jay Chou's albums, and they're a staple on my Ipod playlists. I didn't watch Secret, his previous film but I did watch Initial D and thought he did well. And to his credit, I have nothing against his peformance in Kung Fu Dunk. It's the movie which left a bad after-taste which I'm trying to get rid of. For starters, I can't stand idol dramas and movies, typically those from Taiwan. I've always felt that they were unrealistic, overly stylish and spent way, way too much time trying to make the characters look cool and appealing, through slow motion scenes, overly dramatic sway of the hair, etc. And Kung Fu Dunk has too much of those scenes, where the focus weren't on the plot or the basket ball game, but on the lead actors and trying to make them look cool. I'm not a basketball player, but even to me the moves they did seemed tooextravagant, and the only point was to make the actors look cool.

It probably didn't help that the movie had a virtually non-existant plot. Too many questions were raised, too many questionable scenes, with no answers. Again, spoilers here so stay away if you still plan to watch the movie. In the movie, Chou was a normal kid who went to Kung Fu school. Bear in mind that it was a school with lots of other students, and he was by no means special. Well, perhaps he was, since he has fantastic shooting abilities and supposedly picked up an ancient skill even capable of time travel. And my point about making the characters look cool in exchange of realism? Chow can single handly take on over 20 knifed henchmen without breaking a sweat. Much too absurd for me, sorry. I'm fine with him knowing qigong, shooting 3 pointers, but beating up all those guys was overboard. At least give him a hard time! The plot had lots of loop holes for me as well, so I'll list out those I remember:

  • Young kid learning how to reverse time, and uses it to save a game?
  • Mafia and Triad bosses betting over a University basketball game?
  • Devil Team with the same haircuts mysteriously disappear in second game?
  • 3 uncles and 1 auntie joining the University for game?
  • No fouls called by the referees. In Shao Lin soccer, it was stated that the officials were all bribed. This were neither implied nor referenced in the movie, and the "secret weapon", the referee can even turn the game around by goal tending, while everybody is fine with the decision. WTF?
  • Moral of the movie: You know Kung Fu, you can do anything. Jump 5 storeys. Defeat 20 knife carrying triad members. Cure fracture arms and legs. Freeze the atmosphere with your inner ki. Use flying needles with lethal accuracy. And of course, time travel.

Luckily, the few saving graces of the movie came from the veteran Hong Kong actors. Eric Tseng was great, and he provided me with the only laugh I got from the entire movie, when he told Chou to go to his father by saying "还不去?钱来了。" I give the movie 0.5 over 5. I did dig the Jay Chou movie song though. 豆腐!功夫!

There are a few upcoming shows which I would like to watch too. First, opening in cinemas on the 21st of February is L: Change the WorLd. It is the third installment in the Death Note movie series, directed by Hideo Nakata. It is based on the manga Death Note by Tsugumi Oba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The film has been released in Japan on February 9 and in Hong Kong on February 7, 2008. Kenichi Matsuyama will reprise his role as L from the previous Death Note films. The film will center on the final 23 days of L's life after the events of the previous film and how Near meets L and joins the orphanage. Using original material not found in the manga, this movie makes use of the 23 days in which L has left to live, after writing his own name in the Death note in the second movie, to prevent himself from being assasinated by Yagami Light. I know it would be hard to match up to the standards set by the previous 2 movies, but hopefully it will have an interesting plot which set the 2 movies apart from the other manga related movies out there.
From the creators of the Scary Movie, Epic Move, Date Movie series, come another movie called Superhero Movie. As the name suggests, the movie pokes fun at the recent era of Superhero movies, namely the original Spider-Man, where many of the spoofs are taken from. The trailer is out, and linked below for your convenience. Usually I don't watch such nonsensical movies at the theaters, but I might be tempted to watch this and Meet the Spartans, since they reference some really cool scenes from Spider-Man, and also 300 and Transformers for Meet the Spartans. I thought there were too many run-into-pole/wall/tree jokes, and too many fart jokes too, but hopefully the Spider-Man references will be enough to make up for it. Check out the trailer. I loved the part where the main guy break dances on the wall, only to have the cat run up beside him. Brilliant.

Official site of the new Ultraman 8 Brothers movie is almost up, but it's a good 7 months or so before we can get to see the movie (in Japan). For me, I'll most probably be ordering the DVD online, but I expect that would take another half year or go, so the earliest time I'll get to catch the movie will be about a year from now.

Just caught the second episode of Kamen Rider Kiva this week. Still, can't feel much for the series as it's just began. Not really liking the main character too much, but hey I said the same thing for Ryoutaro a year ago, when I made comparisions between Kamen Rider Den-O and Kamen Rider Kabuto. There're a few big questions lingering about the series right now, but the time change sequences in the show were pretty cool. The characters of Kamen Rider Kiva are spread throughout two time periods, each related to one another. There are the actions of Otoya Kurenai and the Fangaire Hunter Yuri Aso in the year 1986 that result in the various Fangaire that persist to the current day, in 2008, with Otoya's son Wataru (as Kamen Rider Kiva) and Yuri's daughter Megumi (also a Fangaire Hunter), dealing with the Fangaire to prevent deaths. It would be interesting to see how the characters relate to each other before and after the 20 year period. The Fangaire (ファンガイア) are stained glass-based vampires who feed off of the Life Energy (ライフエナジー) of humans to survive, with which they can disguise themselves as humans. Because of this, aware humans have formed a group to hunt the Fangaire. The only other person able to destroy a Fangaia is Kamen Rider Kiva. Will be keeping up with the show as it progresses. That's it for this week's entry, largely about my movie rants. Until next time, Ja~


blacksnail said...

I watched CJ7 too...

the kids are so cute and funny. I agreed with you that some scenes can be predetermined, for example the part when the "Boy" imagining CJ7 can do a lot for him.

But i still find the guy with the pants reaching his chest height funny. haha..

and that part when stephen died was so sad and made lots of the audiences around me cried. not sure about the Singapore Audience. but i stayed cool...

Overall, i think there is something missing at the End of the movie! didnt get enuf..

Psyke aka Sean (ショーン) said...

Well, at least I had a good laugh or two for this movie. It was way better than Kung Fu dunk though. Don't think I'm going to catch another HK show in the theaters anytime soon....