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Asian Epic Home Cinema Of The Month

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of The Dragon

Daniel Lee’s “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon” which based on the epic Chinese novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” by Luo Guanzhong, is the second of the big-budget Chinese epics after Jet Li’s “The Warlords”, which came out in late 2007. Some parts of this movie sparks of great brilliant in capturing the attraction of the Romance of the Three Kingdom, particularity in the aspect of strategy, loyalty between brotherhood and the omniscience power of fate.
Set in China, 228 A.D., during a time of great warfare, with the country divided into three kingdoms — Wei, Shu, and Wu. Zhao Zilong (Andy Lau) is a citizen of Shu, he is an idealistic young man enlisting for the good fight with dreams of uniting his country for the better. Destiny then brings him to meet the robust Ping-an (Sammo Hung), a veteran of the wars, who also hails from the same village as Zilong. After a string of daring victories against the armies of Lord Cao (Damian Lau), including one of those great mainstays of Chinese cinema, the one-versus-1000 battle, Zilong quickly rises through the ranks. He eventually attains greatness, earning the nickname “The Invincible General”, and goes on a three decades long campaign to unite the country. Through the many years of war, tides rise and ebb for the Kingdom of Shu and comrades fall one by one, leaving Zhao alone as the invincible general. With his legacy at stake, Zhao leads his final expedition against a Wei army now headed by Cao Cao's granddaughter Cao Ying (Maggie Q).

Review: While the film certainly attempts too much and fails too often, especially in the first hour, it makes up for a lot of stumbling and flailing with an excellent and captivating Third Act. Star Andy Lau once again shows why he’s one of the biggest draws in the Chinese film industry, and Maggie Q. proves she has star-making potential in the right vehicle. And while I could have done without director Daniel Lee’s ’90s blurry action style, Lee does get bonus points for some very odd choices in the film’ musical score. Every now and then, as characters ride out to do battle, I thought I was watching a Sergio Leone Western. That was unexpected, but definitely interesting. (Nix – Beyond Hollywood)

DVD Release Date: June 30, 2008 (Order the DVD - All Region & Region 3)

The Restless
The Restless is indeed a masterpiece in Korean film-making in terms of technical aspects. This fantasy-adventure will definitely charm the audience with its gorgeous execution in set designs. It is not a piece of contemporary Wuxia but more of an overindulgent fantasy epic that has gained mass international appeal. The film is also geared for action/CGI fan boys. The film may have some difficulty connecting to some viewers and some may consider the film very superficial. There's good and evil, love and hate; but it all seems to have been overshadowed by its stunning visuals that it seemed to lack credibility. It may be a little difficult to wow an audience if all you have going is the action and grand sets.
The story set in ancient Korea, where demon slayer Yi Gwak (Woo-sung Jung) collapses from the effects of a poisoned wine glass after battling a fierce group of demonic forces. He wakes up later to find himself in a strange and unusual city, a place that he has never seen before. As he talks with a friendly stranger, he slowly comes to the conclusion that he has awaken in the land of Joongcheon, a Buddhist purgatory, where spirits remain for 49 days until they are reincarnated back to Earth. Not only has he landed in the afterlife, but he encounters his deceased wife. His deceased wife is now reincarnated as So-Hwa, a member of the White Repears that defends Joongcheon from evil forces. Soon, all hell breaks loose in Joongcheon when the demonic forces invades Joongcheon and tries to capture the Holy Stone that is in the possession of So-Hwa. Yi-Gwak must now fight the evil forces to save Joongcheon and maintain the cycle of life that will ultimately save the Earth.

Review: The problem is that while the martial arts sequences in “The Restless” are well done and clearly demonstrates competency from every celluloid pore, they are not overly original, and as a result they won’t stand out from equally vacuous, but impressively designed efforts such as “The Promise” or “The Banquet”. Likewise with the creative Mid-heaven landscape. In the cinematic world post-”Lord of the Rings”, it’s hard to wow the audience with grand CGI vistas and huge sets if that’s all the ammunition you have. “The Restless” does not have those highly original moments to make it stand out, and its lack of character and story depth makes it yet another forgettable foray into CGI fantasy. (Nix – Beyond Hollywood)

DVD Release Date: June 17, 2008 (Order the DVD)

An Empress and the Warriors

Another big-budgeter Chinese epic from director Tony Ching Siu Tung, who previously handled the action for Zhang Yimou's “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”, as well as numerous martial arts classics. This lavish tale that filled with action and romance is starred by Hong Kong top-notch stars including the Canton-pop queen Kelly Chen, Leon Lai and action superstar Donnie Yen.
Yan Feier (Kelly Chen) is thrust into the role of empress when her father the King is viciously murdered by his own nephew, Wu Ba (Guo Xiao Dong). His treachery unknown to Feier, Wu Ba plots to gain control of the kingdom for himself. Meanwhile, Feier turns to legendary warrior Brother Hu (Donnie Yen) to instruct her in the ways of warfare. But Wu Ba sends assassins after Feier, and she's poisoned by an assassin's dart before being lost in the woods. Her absence throws the kingdom into chaos, and Brother Hu must maintain morale, all the while carrying a hidden love for his missing empress. Meanwhile, Feier is found and nursed back to health by Duan Lanquan (Leon Lai), a doctor who lives in a secluded forest treehouse. Lanquan awakens the woman within the warrior's armor, and given the alternative of a peaceful life without war, Feier must eventually make a difficult choice. Should she choose love, and remain just a woman? Or should she choose her kingdom, and return to being an empress?

Review: “Empress and the Warriors” is in many ways a combination of new and old Hong Kong Cinema. Its settings, scale, and the grandeur it implies are very much new, keeping with the vogue for elaborate Ancient Chinese action-dramas that started with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon “and continued with a zillion other movies starring Zhang Ziyi. However, the glossed-over details, deliberate cuteness, and shifting tone feel more like those early nineties wuxia that mixed flying kung-fu with sloppy production values and bizarre hijinks. Those films were frequently uneven, yet still entertaining, and Empress almost pulls off the same trick here. (Kozo – LoveHKFilm)

DVD Release Date: May 28, 2008 (Order the DVD - All Region & Region 3)

Other Asian Epic DVD Selection:

" Dragon Tiger Gate "

"The Warlords"

" A Battle Of Wits "

" Seven Swords "

" The Warrior "


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