Movie review for Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016)


Before my first semester for my postgraduate study officially begins next week, I’m still enjoying my free time in Perth. Without any assignments yet, I’m almost bored to death spending most of my time in my room. Not only that I watched ‘Deadpool’ one more time in Perth after having watched it already back in Malaysia before I came here, I also managed to watch two new movies released this year.

The first one is ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’. It is a computer-animated action comedy martial arts film and is the third installment in ‘Kung Fu Panda’ film franchise which mainly revolves on an unlikely panda being selected as a ‘dragon warrior’ alongside the help of his master and his martial-art friends to protect a valley from villains. In this sequel, Po (the panda) has to face with a supernatural villain whom is out to defeat all the kung fu masters across China. At the same time, Po is also reunited with his long lost father and discovered many more of his species (panda) in a secret village to his surprise and joy.

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Just like its two predecessors, this latest movie delivered with highly entertaining story and characters. Eventhough we have seen the same characters and the similar plot in the first two movies, this third one still manage to capture our attention and had me engaged. There are still plenty of hilarious scenes to keep it a good and a fun comedy while the film is also successful from its beautiful animation works and some positive messages to learn from. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ a total of 7.7. Surprisingly, I’m still not tired with this franchise and I’m more than fine for this franchise to keep expanding. One of the big thing many people didn’t know about this film is that most of the cast involved for the voices of the characters in this animated movie are big movie stars; Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, J.K. Simmons, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Kate Hudson, etc.

The second movie is ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’. It is a martial-arts film and is a sequel to the critically-acclaimed 2000 film titled ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’. The first film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (the first and the only Chinese film to do so in history of Oscars) as well as three other Academy awards, while also being nominated in the Best Picture category. I didn’t get to watch that one but I have heard of many positive feedback to that one. In this sequel, all of the original cast members did not return except for Michelle Yeoh. Well, I would love to see her in a new film since we are Malaysians and hence I allocate my time for this movie.

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Well, as expected, it would be not as good as the first one as seen on the comparison of reviews for both movies from critics across the world. However, it is still an enjoyable Chinese film with plenty of action sequences on martial arts shown throughout the movie. Michelle Yeoh is now getting old (she is now over 53) but she still managed to perform some great stunts in this movie. The same goes to Donnie Yen who joined this film as the leading actor. Well, I’m always seeing him in recent Hong Kong martial arts films and so it is not surprising that he would be in this movie too. He is convincing on his fight scenes as expected but there isn’t any chemistry between him and Michelle Yeoh in this movie. Anyway, the movie is fine for me (the story is not bad) and I would rate the film a total of 7.1.

Before I’m ending this post, I find that the recent Chinese films like to put in excessive CGIs (visual effects) into the movies including this one. I don’t think it is necessary and the more I see of those CGIs, the more I felt how they interrupted the feel of the movie instead of enhancing it. Quality of visual effects in Chinese productions is still far behind from Hollywood standard. Hence, I hope that there wouldn’t be too much of ‘forced’ insertion of CGIs into future Chinese films especially the big-budget ones. You simply just waste huge sum of money on heavy and unrealistic effects for very little purpose.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

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‘Captain of Destiny’, the best TVB series of the year so far.


‘Captain of Destiny’ (張保仔, literally as Cheung Po Tsai) is a 2015 Hong Kong historical fiction sci-fi television drama of 32 episodes by TVB. The drama is a retelling of the story of 19th century Chinese pirate Cheung Po Tsai and his conflict with the Qing imperial army, meanwhile encountering a time-travelling police constable from the 21st century. The drama starred Ruco Chan, Tony Hung, Grace Chan, Ram Cheung, Elaine Yiu, Maggie Shiu, Joel Chan, Mandy Wong, Susan Tse, Lau Kong, etc. It is a grand production and is one of the four anniversary series of 2015 to mark 48th anniversary of TVB.

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This series which concluded just now with its final episode also won the Most Favourite TVB Drama at the Singapore’s Starhub TVB Awards 2015 yesterday. Despite receiving average points in viewership rating at Hong Kong, the drama is being very well received and I’m one of them who have more praise to this series compared to all the other dramas released this year. It is just so good and always kept me intensely catching up to latest episode of the series every night. In the first few episodes, I came to watch the series with less expectation but then I’m surprised by the great quality of storyline and characters the series present to TV audiences as the drama develops. I still enjoyed the time-travel concept eventhough TVB had used this idea many times before in the past.

First, we were shown in the present setting of Hong Kong when a female police constable (Grace Chan) accidentally traveled back in time to Qing dynasty from a waterspout when she is on a mission to catch a criminal named Bandit King (Ruco Chan). Once back to 200 years earlier, she met the famous pirate Cheung Po Tsai (Tony Hung) and his gang. Here the story goes between the pirates’ life and the life in the palace emphasizing the 11th prince (Ruco Chan again) who is a hardworking prince in mission to eliminate pirates. Many events followed between these main characters and the story development went very well in a good pacing mixed with light fun moments as well as serious and intense situations.

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Ruco Chan delivered yet another impressive performance as the 11th prince. His character here is very diverse, requiring him to deliver multitude of varying emotions and he nailed it. He conquered all the scenes he is in with powerful strength and expressions. Eventhough he is not in the titular role, but he shines over the rest in this drama. No wonder he won Most Favourite TVB Actor in Singapore last night too for his performance here. Very well deserved and I do hope his winning continues to TVB Star Awards Malaysia next month as well as the Hong Kong’s TVB Anniversary Awards in December. It’s time for him to be rewarded. Tony Hung portrayed the titular role and I’m fine with it. However, I find it weird that his character is not being given much attention throughout the series eventhough his name makes the series’ title. That has to be case when you have another lead role, the 11th prince of which I have said earlier that stood out better than the rest including this titular character of Cheung Po Tsai.

Grace Chan is a newbie artist and she should not be promoted too quickly by the TVB station by taking up this first female lead role here. The outcome is you get a performance that is poor and heavily criticized by many people. It’s not her fault mostly but I do cannot stand the overly exaggerated expressions and voice she shown in this drama. On the other hand, I also cannot stand anymore on the cute acts by the 11th prince’s lady servant, portrayed by Kelly Fu. However, her acting is far more natural than Grace. It is the veteran actors and actresses that back the series a lot too. Villains like Lee Shin Cheung (as admiral), Elaine Yiu (as concubine), and Lau Kong (as emperor) and others like Susan Tse (as concubine), Elliot Ngok (as imperial eunuch), Maggie Shiu (head pirate’s wife), and Ram Cheung (pirate’s strategist) did very well. Joel Chan and Mandy Wong also contributed very convincing performances in their respective supporting role too.

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Besides that, I’m also surprised by the effort put on the visual effects of this series. The visual effects especially during the war between the imperial army and the pirates are exceptionally good if measured by TVB standard. I’m stunned and amazed by that battle scene. It looks very cool, technically brilliant, intense and exciting. However, I am actually hoping for like two or more of those battle scene to further expand the storyline on the strained relationship between the pirates and the government. So actually, I don’t mind the series to be 40 episodes long.  The effort put on production design, costume and make-up design, and editing should also be complimented for this drama. The drama’s opening theme song by Fred Cheng, closing theme song by Ruco Chan and episode’s plug song by Linda Chung are all very nice to listen to and suits well to this drama’s heart.

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As for its ending just now, I’m very happy of how this series came to such a thought-provoking conclusion. It is an ending made with a lot of thoughts (and a nice twist) and I like that. I’m tired of typical non-moving yet happy ending made to most of TVB series in recent years. I’m also surprised to see Raymond Wong making a cameo appearance in the end as a pirate. Why him? It’s because he is originally cast to portray Cheung Po Tsai and not Tony Hung. So letting him to appear in the very last minute of the series’ ending would be quite interesting. In general, this drama is definitely the best TVB series of the year so far and if the next series ‘Lord of Shanghai’ isn’t as good as it is expected, then I see no problem for ‘Captain of Destiny’ to take home Most Favourite TVB Drama in both TVB Star Awards Malaysia and also in Hong Kong’s TVB Anniversary Awards. It is really very good and delivered beyond my expectation. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Captain of Destiny’ a total of 8.2. That’s the highest rating for a series I have given this year. Even Grace Chan’s bad acting here couldn’t pull the series down to below 8 points from me.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Just finished ‘Master of Destiny’, a Hong Kong joint China TV drama.


風雲天地 (Master of Destiny) is a Hong Kong joint China television drama created by famous Hong Kong director Wong Jing. At China of which it is aired earlier, the series has a total of 40 episodes as per information from its wikipedia page. However, we in Malaysia (also for Hong Kong) get to watch the version of the series that has only 32 episodes (8 episodes shorter) and the series had just ended with its finale yesterday.

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When this series was at the early planning stage, I’m very excited by news reporting that award-winning actress Deanie Ip will be heading huge list of famous cast in this series helmed by director Wong Jing. Kenneth Ma will also be in the cast. However, both Deanie and Kenneth dropped out and Liza Wang and Edwin Siu were brought in to replace them. Lesser impressive cast, but I would still watch it because it’s refreshing to see a drama by Wong Jing whom is famous for producing brainless yet funny movies back in the 90s.

The series chronicles the rise and the eventual hardships of the affluent Cho family from Hong Kong, which eventually, they fight the corruption that reeks inside their family while being entangled in various troubled relationships. The series starred Liza Wang, Angie Chiu, Hawick Lau, Kenny Wong, Edwin Siu, Kimmy Tong, Natalie Meng, Monica Mok, etc. I thought Angie Chiu, a great veteran actress would have a heavy role here, but in the end, she is more of a minor supporting role only. I thought I would see more of her after her last TVB drama ‘Point of No Return’ 12 years ago that I have watched. Anyway, she is still amazingly beautiful at her current age of 60.

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I decided to watch this series because of its kind of storyline. Revolving on a wealthy family with a huge business background would means a lot of quarrels, scheming and dramas. This series had all that but they are not up to my preferred way or style. There are too many story developments that are not making any sense; the villain (Song Chi Wah) can have so many money on ‘buying’ all the people around on helping to achieve her evil plans like she had nothing else to do besides that, the good girls being too naive (or I should say dumb) for the boys they blindly love, etc. And the thing that I don’t like is the dubbing. Well, I have to get over with it since it is a joint production and it involves cast from mainland China.

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Liza Wang, is as usual, good on her lead role as the tough mother to the family. This year, we saw her in ‘Limelight Years’ and in this one and she was awesome in both of the series. A hardworking veteran actress with solid acting. Hawick Lau is getting more popular now but I think his acting is still not excellent. Just average. Even Kenny Wong and Edwin Siu (as his brothers in the series) were better than him in terms of performances. Also average level of performances by the girls (mostly China’s actresses in this series). I would like to praise Selena Li who portrays the younger version of Liza Wang’s character in the series. She is absolutely fantastic especially in her emotionally-heavy and crying scenes. She should be more acknowledged by TVB by now.

The title of the series suggests something epic, intense and dramatic but the series couldn’t really pull it off especially with the non-engaging storyline and draggy developments as it progresses. I felt bored and uninterested in most of the episodes. I’m left slightly disappointed and now I’m glad the series is over. The happy ending still could not save much of the troubled content of the drama. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Master of Destiny’ a total of 6.8.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)