Screening Room: Jackie Chan’s ‘Police Story’

Jackie Chan cemented his hold on the Asian box office with the launch of his high-kicking cop movie series in 1985. Starting today, Police Story and Police Story 2 are getting a limited theatrical re-release in advance of the launch of their remastered editions in the Criterion Collection.

My review is at PopMatters:

Sporting the same shaggy mop of hair and the slightly bemused look of a sleepy John Cusack, Jackie Chan rolls into 1985’s Police Story like some kid fresh out of the Peking Opera School and not a pro who had already been working in the Hong Kong film industry for over 20 years. It’s part of the reason why attempts in the previous decade to turn him into the new Bruce Lee never quite worked…

Department of Weekend Reading: March 21, 2014

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New on DVD: ‘The Grandmaster’

Zhang Ziyi and Tony Leung compare styles in 'The Grandmaster'
Zhang Ziyi and Tony Leung compare styles in ‘The Grandmaster’

dvd-grandmaster-cvr-200The great Hong Kong romantic Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love) hadn’t completed a feature film since 2007’s misfire My Blueberry Nights. So it was pretty good news to hear that his latest film was going to be a classic martial-arts extravaganza, reuniting Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi with The Matrix choreographer Yuen Wo Ping.

The Grandmaster, which received well-deserved Oscar nominations for cinematography and costume design, will be released on DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday. My review is at PopMatters:

“Don’t tell me about your teacher,” says Ip Man (Tony Leung) at the start of Wong Kar Wai’s dreamlike heartbreak of a kung fu film, The Grandmaster, “or brag about your style.” Using that same steady humility flecked with a hint of the sardonic that’s made Leung such a crucial counterweight to the Hong Kong school of overkill filmmaking, he preemptively bleeds the hot air out of what’s to follow. This is a good thing, because that scene is intercut with the already-legendary scene in which Ip Man faces down a dozen or so adversaries in pouring rain. He dispatches them all with practiced ease but not a whiff of arrogance, just as the real Ip Man’s student Bruce Lee would do on film decades later…

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Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Pacific Rim’

PACIFIC RIM

Guillermo del Toro’s robots vs. monsters movie Pacific Rim is now playing just about everywhere. The writing is superfluous and the characters thin, but at least when the audience laughs it’s with the film and not at it.

pacificrim-posterMy review is at Short Ends & Leader:

In the case of Pacific Rim, what del Toro wanted to do was create a scenario in which giant robots get to slug it out with monsters. In the ocean. With swords and plasma cannons. The setup is handled somewhat clumsily at the start by a narration that continually emphasizes the “we” of humanity (the film is a throwback to the old style of kaiju and disaster films, where people put national differences aside and work together). Long, scaly, Cloverfield-type beasts are crawling out of a hellish interdimensional gash on the ocean floor and laying waste to coastal cities around the Pacific Rim. They’re actually called kaiju, in case you didn’t get what del Toro was going for.

To fight back, huge Robotech-styled vehicles called Jaegers (German for hunter or fighter) were built. The Jaegers are directed by two pilots who sit inside the giant head, stuck in a mind-meld virtual reality that’s made that much more effective when the two have some emotional connection. The film’s putative hero, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam, a study in blankness), loses his co-pilot and brother in the opening battle scenes, and only reluctantly returns to fight at humanity’s last stand in Hong Kong…

Check out the trailer: