Shu Qi

ff journey to the west

I’ve been a fan of Stephen Chow since I was first introduced to his comedic style in Shaolin Soccer over ten years ago, but it wasn’t until just recently that it dawned on me how much Chow resembles a modern-day Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton in regards to his storytelling sensibilities (and ability to wear multiple hats) while also pulling a lot of the persona of a Harold Lloyd character when he steps in front of the camera. He takes many of the recognizable elements of classic slapstick comedy and its characters and toys with them just enough to make them his own on paper before making them his own on screen. He tells underdog stories, but his underdogs are endearingly arrogant. He also tells love stories, only his protagonists are not motivated by the affections of a woman. His heroes are self-centered and pathetically so. Yet, like the love interests in the film (eventually the hero comes around) we can’t help but fall in love with them no matter what it is that motivates them. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons puts us in very familiar Chow territory without, for the first time, the onscreen presence of Chow himself. Though, while it isn’t Stephen Chow in front of the camera, it still feels very much like Chow is in front of the camera.

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If movies have taught us anything it’s that not enough filmmakers title their work as an homage to the venerable and beloved Police Academy film series. But they’ve also taught us that it’s never a good thing when military types and scientists collaborate. Yes, even Asian ones. City Under Siege opens in an underground bunker during WWII as a group of frightened men are led into an observation room. Also in the room? A mutated and muscle-laden man who proceeds to kill each and every one of them. Cut to the present day and we’re introduced to Sunny (Aaron Kwok), a clown at the local circus who imagines himself as a legendary knife thrower. But Zhang (Collin Chou) and his cronies are the circus’ real stars, and they treat Sunny like a second-class citizen. Which is still better than clowns deserve to be treated. The group goes treasure hunting in the hills and accidentally get spritzed by a chemical which begins to mutate them all in painful ways but which also gives them superhuman powers. Imbued with abilities to match their attitudes they leave Sunny for dead and head into the city to wreak havoc, rob armored trucks, and cause mayhem wherever possible. Sunny’s alive of course, and as the only mutant with a sense of right and wrong he heads into town to square off against his former c0-workers. Toss in an engaged couple brought in to investigate supernatural crimes (the extremely talented Wu Jing and Zhang Jingchu), a […]

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