Andy Lau

NYAFF 2014

NYAFF 2014 runs June 27-July 14 in New York City. Follow all of our coverage here. Hong Kong action films often come with two promises. There will be action, and it will most probably be ludicrous. Smart screenplays are always appreciated of course, but there’s nothing wrong with a fun, creatively violent action flick that entertains in its sincere goofiness. That balance between the ridiculous and the fun is important though when the film is also trying to be serious. Firestorm is trying to be serious, and those intentions constantly clash with the physics-ignorant action sequences, frequently dumb writing and the near-constant display of unimpressive CGI. A team of professional criminals is making a mockery of the police department through a series of daytime heists that leave bloodshed and massive property damage in their wake. Inspector Lui (Andy Lau) is a rule-follower, but he quickly learns that “proper” police-work may not be enough to stop the violence in the streets of Hong Kong. He decides to play dirty out of necessity, but the bad guys are far more experienced at the game.

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Blind Detective

Tone is one of the most important though less-commonly discussed facets of filmmaking, one that is almost entirely disregarded in Johnnie To‘s fascinating mess, Blind Detective, an entry into the Cannes Film Festival’s small MidnightScreenings branch. Chong (Andy Lau) is the titular blind detective, a formerly-sighted member of his profession who, in light of the blinding incident, takes on missions of his own accord, much to his frustration. His partner is Tung (Sammi Cheng), an incompetent rookie cop who wants to enhance her detective skills, and so goes about trying to solve the 1997 disappearance of her childhood friend Minnie. Along the way, the pair encounter far more than they bargained for, making this would-be training exercise a very real assignment indeed.

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China in the early twentieth century is a land of strife, starvation and feuding warlords. Hao Jie (Andy Lau) is one of the strongest and most ruthless among them, even going so far as to kill an enemy within the walls of the sacred Shaolin temple. Together with his right-hand man, Tsao Man (Nicholas Tse), he murders and maims his way across the country with impunity. But his greed reaches its limit when bloodthirsty ambition combined with an act of betrayal destroys his family and leaves him for dead. Wounded and emotionally devastated, Hao takes refuge with the only people that will have him… the Shaolin monks. He can’t hide from his past forever though, and soon the new man he claims to be is forced to face the world of bloodshed he once called his own. Joining Hao in the fight are the honorable, ass-kicking monks and a wise-cracking cook (Jackie Chan), but will they be enough to defeat the new warlord hellbent on their destruction?

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These days when people think of monks the image that comes to mind invariably falls into one of two categories. Some imagine docile men in robes chanting Gregorian tunes, and others probably picture Tony Shalhoub washing his hands. But once upon a time monks did far more than sell millions of cds and/or solve crimes. Once upon a time they used their meditative, agricultural, and martial arts skills to stand up against tyranny. Or maybe they didn’t. I have no clue in the matter, but if the trailer for the recent blockbuster, Shaolin, has any truth to it these men were bad ass mothers when push came to shove. The film is set in the 1920′s after China’s last imperial Dynasty has come to an end. Warlords control the land, and none are more ruthless than Hoe Jie (Andy Lau), but when he’s betrayed by one of his own and left with nothing he’s forced to seek solace and redemption at the legendary Shaolin Temple. He learns a new attitude and appreciation for both life and the living, but when his enemies return to finish the job they started he’ll stand with the monks in the most important battle they’ve ever faced. Check out the new trailer below for CineAsia’s upcoming release of Shaolin.

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“Shatuo… you still remember Donkey Wang?” It’s 690 AD and the Chinese emperor has died. His widow is awaiting her coronation as the first empress of China, but not everyone in the court supports the idea of a lady on the throne. And then there’s the problem of her loyal subjects suddenly bursting into flames and burning to death. Empress Wu (Carina Lau) needs help figuring out who’s behind the immolation murders threatening to disrupt her impending inauguration and turns to Detective Dee (Andy Lau) for assistance. But first she’ll have to pardon him from prison where he’s spent the last eight years serving a sentence handed down by… Empress Wu. What follows is a visual feast of high-flying action, vibrant colors, mystical underworlds, and CGI wonders. Oh, and maybe a talking stag or two. It’s the Chinese Sherlock Holmes movie you never knew you wanted. It’s Shanghai Holmes! No? Too far? How about this… it’s a fun mix of mystery, magic, and martial arts that wraps an interesting central story in a guise of pure entertainment.

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