The Young Master


Viewed – 22 February 2021 Blu-ray

Hong Kong Theatrical Cut

It’s strange how one remembers some movies. It turns out this is a completely different movie than what I thought I’d watched a numbers of years back. That movie was Dragon Lord and not this 1980 break-out hit for Jackie Chan and his first with studio Golden Harvest. Despite my mistaken identity I chose to settle into this regardless. Chan plays a martial arts student who’s school is involved in a Chinese dragon dance contest and loses when his brother fakes an injury only to join the rival school and win the contest. Disgraced by his former master, Chan’s brother is outcast. Chan himself whilst attempting to locate his brother gets mistaken for a wanted criminal and has to prove his innocence, leading to a final confrontation with a recently escaped martial arts master.

fight through the pain…

The story is rather messy, feeling patched together, like how scenes can follow on from one another and feel unconnected like there are bits missing. Yet coming to this I wasn’t expecting a great story, but was hoping for good action … and well, in this respect the movie delivers. There’s a decent bunch of kung-fu encounters, including a fun fight involving paper fans, a street brawl with Chan disguised as an old man, and an extended final encounter that’s particularly memorable. The kung-fu is shot expertly too, brilliantly edited and with great camera work that showcases the skill on display. It’s of the dance-like style of fight choreography but I still appreciated it. Casting, with an appearance by Chan regular Yuen Biao (Wheels On Meals) is good too with a few recognisable faces, and Hwang In-shik as the main villain is one hell of a fighter. Just a shame the plot is so all of the the place, as an easier to follow story would have added a great deal of substance to the fights. As it stands, watch this for the brilliant martial arts on display, not so much the story.

This special edition release from 88 films comes in deluxe packaging, has a detailed booklet, a poster, art cards, specially commissioned cover art, and several versions of the movie – the ‘theatrical Hong Kong cut’, a slightly shorter ‘export cut’, and a third version called the ‘extended export cut’ – with restored 2k transfers, restored audio in dubbed English or original language with subtitles (the export cut is English dub only). Add to this plenty of extras, with interviews, featurettes, alternate scenes and two commentaries. Great stuff for collectors. Maybe not one of Chan’s best – but still worthwhile for kung-fu fans.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Tenet


Viewed – 26 December 2020. Bly-ray

I tend to approach a movie directed by Christopher Nolan with a degree of expectation. Over the years he has earned his place as one of the most skilled directors around, with acclaimed works such as Inception, Interstellar and of course The Dark Knight trilogy. This latest has him attempt the spy / espionage sub-genre and you do get the impression he’d make a helluva Bond movie – but this gives the genre Nolan’s own unique spin. So how does it fair?

Time, but not as we know it…

Before get to that let’s go into the plot. A CUA operative (John David Washington) gets embroiled in a complex plot to over throw a Russian arms dealer (Kenneth Branagh) who seems to have stumbled upon a top secret weapon that could mean the end of the world. This weapon has something to do with time inversion, where objects or people can be inverted so they work in reverse of perceived time, therefore manipulating the world as it see’s fit because it’s already happened. The movie has us grapple with this high-brow concept whilst delivering exhilarating, unique action set pieces (the freeway heist) I felt only a director of Christopher Nolan’s calibre could pull off. The plot is confusing at first as our protagonist tries to stop a mad man whilst grappling with the fabric of time itself. Yet it’s a time travel movie done in a way I don’t think we’ve seen before, … that’s head-scratching but also awe-inspiring, with all the necessary ‘aha’ moments when certain details fall into place. This is rather ingenious writing that I’ll admit to not really being clever enough to unravel on first viewing.

Beyond the complex ideas at play, there is also the matter of stunning IMAX photography, which is more plentiful here than in the director’s previous work aided by a reliance on large-scale stunt work, practical effects and grandeur. The movie globe trots from eye catching locale to eye catching locale and it all looks lush. Performances ranging from Washington’s cool as ice Protagonist to Brannagh’s scenery chewing villain are decent, even if plot exposition can get lost in line delivery that’s often mumbled (and occasionally drowned out by the movie’s score) The fact this movie is hard to follow is really it’s only failing. Otherwise it delivers action, scale and imagination that’s on a different level. Perhaps not Nolan’s best, but certainly up there with some of his other movies if given the attention it deserves.

Verdict: Recommended

Possessor


Viewed – 05 December 2020 online rental

I’ve been a long time fan of director David Cronenberg, and came to this unusual thriller blind, unaware at first that it’s directed by his son Brandon. However shortly into this I began to get those unsettling Cronenberg vibes, with its emphasis on the psychological effects of technology, not unlike Videodrome. This has a woman, Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) who works for a secret organisation who by using a device can transport herself into another person’s body in order to carry out an assassination.

Shot with a visual aesthetic that’s both beautiful and creepy, I was initially gripped by this concept and intrigued how it would play out. We learn early on that Tasya is in a relationship and has a young son, but is away on ‘business’ a lot so finds it hard to relate to them naturally, almost playing a part whenever she’s with them. Therefore she dives into her role as an assassin, mentored by Jennifer Jason Leigh’s agency figure.

However the is let down by a lack of meaning to Tasya’s increasingly brutal kills, seeming to lose control whenever she has to complete her mission. The violence here is drawn out, incredibly graphic and I’ll say … unnecessary. The themes the movie explores of identity, sanity, technology etc are interesting but they get overwhelmed by the gore. This leads to an ending that just didn’t make sense. Director Brandon Cronenberg has many of his father’s sensibilities but little of his depth going by this example. Disappointing.

Verdict: Poor

Incident In A Ghostland


Viewed – 08 October 2020 online rental

Horror fans will possibly draw comparisons between this and disturbing 2008 French horror Martyrs, due to it being from the same director Pascal Laugier … yet that would be unfair as Martyrs is a polarising movie and this, despite similar themes, is a little more conventional. Following a home invasion when she was a teenage girl, successful horror novelist Beth (Crystal Reed) finds herself having to return to the house where the incident occurred after receiving a phone call from her traumatised older sister, who seemingly has never recovered. However once back in the family home, Beth begins to realise the nightmare of that night may not be over.

“We just want to play with dolls…”

Laugier has delivered an intense experience that’s dripping with foreboding atmosphere. It dabbles in the horror conventions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel but also turns such conventions on their head with a strong focus on psychological trauma along with some clever twists. The two characters that invade the family home sent chills, especially the tall thin one with long black hair. The constant imagery of dolls may be a genre cliche but manages to feel freakier than usual, especially with how it plays out.

Creatively shot throughout, with an unflinching tone (even if the score is a tad too in-your-face at times), Laugier does not hold back. This goes for it with a number of frantic, very violent encounters Some of the smaller details do get lost in the chaos at times, with motives and background left to one’s imagination. However as a slightly more mainstream horror, this is probably the director’s best work to date and certainly a must for horror junkies.

Verdict: Recommended

The Rhythm Section


Viewed – 28 July 2020 online rental

When a plane disaster kills Stephanie’s (Blake Lively) family, the government make out it was an accident. However when an ex-MI6 agent appears with information that suggests it was terrorism instead, Stephanie vows revenge. A quick glance online, this hasn’t had the most positive buzz, which is curious as overall I found it an enjoyably gritty thriller with a strong lead performance. Yes it’s a tad derivative of similar movies like French classic La Femme Nikita. Even though it lacks the style of a Luc Besson movies. This still delivers a semi-realistic experience with Jude Law on hand as another former agent who helps Lively become an Assassin.

Lively’s performance definitely has echoes of Noomi Rapace’s turn as Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, especially the down-trodden, self-destructive characteristics, and proved quite believable. The movie lacked a bit of exposition with the plane crash not being shown and the why ‘s and wherefor’s behind what really happened rather unclear. At time’s the cinematography lacked style also, with an overly murky atmosphere despite some glamorous locations. That being said one car chase and a fight do stand out. Jude Law also proves an enjoyably tough-talking mentor.

Apart from Stephanie’s motivation for revenge, why Jude Law or those that aid Stephanie turn to her in particular is anyone’s guess – considering she has no underlying skills to build on to make her an ideal assassin-type. It’s like the filmmakers really wanted to make a ‘girl with a gun thriller’, and didn’t concern themselves with the details. I’m guessing the book this is based on fairs better. Yet nit-picks aside this was still effective in places and Lively was decent.

Verdict: Good