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All hail Master Yoda.... and George too! :-), 28 May 2002

The force of Star Wars is back and back with a vengeance! Attack of the clones redeems the series and puts the brilliance and wonderment back into the Star Wars name. After the mediocre Phantom Menace, I did have my doubts as to how good Episode 2 would be. After seeing the trailers and reading some relatively positive preview reviews, I decided to take a chance. I figured the very least, it would offer some amazing eye candy and awesome sound, even if the plot or character development was straw thin. And its a chance I'm glad I took, because Attack of the Clones ROCKS in every sense of the word!

The first thing one notices about the movie is the tone. It is noticeably darker than Phantom Menace and while many scenes in the former film occurred under harsh sunlight, The majority of scenes in Clones occurs during the twilight hours and even when a scene is set during the day, there is always an overcast look to it. This might have been a artistic decision on George Lucas's part to highlight the fact that it is a darker film in general, since Annakin is half way there to becoming Darth Vader. In fact in episode 2, we get to see a bit of the dark side that is starting to build in Annakin, but we also get to see what drives him to take that path.

Another thing worth noting is The CGI in this film. It is simply incredible. Not only in quantity, but in quality. There is almost an over abundance of CGI in the film. So much so that I would consider this film in essence to be a Final Fantasy with real actors. There is NOT a single frame in the movie where CGI isn't used. The battle scenes near the end of the film will make your jaw drop in its level of detail and mind boggling complexity. Film fans will also notice that while ATOC is an original work, it draws inspiration from a variety of other films most notably from The Matrix (in the clone factory and the way humans are *grown*) and Gladiator (the pseudo colosseum)

Lucas is known for using state of the art digital technology to enhance the look of his films and while this on the whole is a good thing, at times one can see that the actor's performance suffers since the acting was done in front of a blue screen without the benefit of environmental and situational context. But let's face it, no one goes to a Star Wars movie for the acting.

Of the CGI actors, non fans of Jar Jar will be glad to know that he is relegated to only a few scenes in episode 2 and while we're on the subject of CGI stars, Yoda finally shows that he's not called *Master* Yoda for nothing! He showcases a martial artistry that would make even Bruce Lee green with envy, at the same time displaying a comedic flare in his fight that would make Jackie Chan jealous! :-) I was glad that George Lucas showed that beings of all races and ethnicities (alien or otherwise) could study to become a Jedi which in turn implicitly explains why the Jedi fighting style had so much eastern flavour during its prime! This in my opinion, is noteworthy because it is undeniable that the fighting techniques used in Episode 1 and 2 are more reminiscent of eastern martial arts rather than the European sword fighting techniques that were used in the first 3 films.

Overall, the film is a remarkable return to form by Lucas and Company as he heralds in a new age in modern day digital film making.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Arnie makes a comeback with style and substance, 17 November 2001

This movie surprised me. When I picked up the DVD from the video store, I thought it was going to be a mindless action flick with Arnie and his clone dishing out double damage together or perhaps fighting each other.....and that was basically the flick

Boy was I wrong! This movie requires the audience to think and to pay attention to the plot. It confronts various moral and ethical issues on the subject of cloning while providing decent action with Arnie dishing it out to the bad guys. The plot also has enough twists and turns to keep the viewer interested in between action scenes.

Oh and the classic one liners are back. No one delivers them like Arnie can!!

Although not quite up to the Matrix in philosophical content and visual style, The 6th day is none the less a solid sci fi actioner and presents a hypothetical scenario of what can happen if we are able to clone a human being.

The Duel (2000)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Duel... A subpar movie with a cool title, 27 October 2001

Andrew Lau tried to accomplish alot with this film but doesnt end up accomplishing much of anything.

The Duel tries to be too many things at once. It tries to be a comedy, a political drama, an action adventure, a martial arts extravaganza but ultimately, it doesnt achieve any of these particularly well.

And somehow, my feeling was that the comedy, although funny at times doesnt seem to fit into the overall story and subject matter of the film especially when you consider that some parts of the film were dead serious.

The story while intriguing wasnt nearly as interesting as Lau's previous big budget efforts. On top of that, you really didnt feel for the characters at all.

And in terms of visuals, the film did not have as much eye candy as I would have liked. Needless to say, The DUEL is not on par with the spectacular action set pieces that *A Man called Hero* and *Storm Riders provides both in terms of quality and quantity.

But at the end of the day, people watch movies to be entertained and *The Duel*, while it did have its moments, on the whole failed to entertain me sufficiently. And to be brutally honest, the only thing REALLY cool about this film is its title.

In my opinion, if you wish to see the ultimate HK fantasy film that has cool characters, the drama, the action, and the special effects without intrusive contrived comedy, then watch Storm Riders.

Storm Riders, I consider to be Andrew Lau's best directing effort.

Kiss of the Dragon... Kiss My Ass!, 21 October 2001

That line as uttered by Richard the baddie after Jet Li's character told him he had been *Kissed* by the dragon was an instant classic!! Tcheky Karyo was a brilliant over the top villain!

Now that's out of the way, My thoughts on the movie... First the story, It was above average for an action film, but I wont dwell on that because let's face it, No one goes to an action/martial arts film solely for the story. With that in mind, I will focus my comments on the action and martial arts sequences.

On the whole, the movie had a dark sort of feel toward it and thus not as upbeat as Jet's previous Hollywood outing, " Romeo must die ". The fight scenes were a welcome change to the wirefu seen in *Romeo must Die* and *Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon* and were grounded in reality, with Jet using various martial arts techniques modified for street fighting.

This movie in terms of fighting would have been first rate if it weren't for the shoddy camera work and editing during most of the fights.

Western directors MUST learn to pull back the camera and stop using those fast cut MTV style editing when it comes to shooting martial arts fight sequences. The first rule of shooting a martial arts scene,especially when the actor is also a talented martial artist, is to pull the camera back and shoot it with a wide angle with longer takes and not to do so many close ups with excessively fast cutting of scenes to the point where the whole body cannot be seen and consequently the FUlL power, grace and the execution of the technique is lost to the audience.

But even with this flaw, the fight scenes still manage to be very entertaining, My personal favourites are The Dojo fight (where Jet utilises Fillipino Escrima stick fighting) and the fight with the 2 albino twins where Jet outnumbered and outsized by his opponents, uses his environment and his speed to defeat them. Those two fights in particular even though they are choreographed, look very REAL and are as hardcore as they come!

Overall, Kiss of the Dragon is a decent action film with good action set pieces but due to the haphazard editing, The film cannot be used as a true showcase of Jet's Skill. One would have to go back to his earlier work in Hong Kong for that.

DNA (1997) (V)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
B movie greatness!!, 23 September 2001

This wasnt a bad straight to video B grade movie,which is why I constantly go to the video store to purposely get these movies out. You know what you're in for the moment you rent such movies, so I'm not sure why people are surprised by its triteness. What were you guys expecting? Shakespeare?

Some people say DNA rips off scenes from movies like Jurassic Park,Alien and Predator. I prefer to say that it pays *homage* to those great movies by *borrowing* scenes from them.

As for the special effects, I can find it in my heart to forgive the producers as they probably didn't have enough budget to hire the technical wizards at ILM. Besides cheesy special effects are part of the fun in B movies!

And finally the fact that Mark Dacascos is in it elevates the film and prevents it from falling into the bog of true mediocrity. :-) Mark is truly a talented actor and martial artist and sometimes I wish he gets to do more mainstream films that are released theatrically.

Overall the movie is a fun, slightly cheesy, yet entertaining cheap thrill ride!

Bruce Lee is the Man. Enter the Dragon is the film, 2 August 2001

The first sign that a film is a classic is when it stands the test of time. Enter the Dragon is one such film. Though it was made over 30 years ago, it looks as if it was made only yesterday. The look and feel of the film defies explanation. In fact the only hint that the film was made in 1973 was William's afro!

As far as Martial arts films go, this stills stands as the king of the heap. It also bears special significance since it was the first time a Major Hollywood studio collaborated with a Hong kong film studio. The first time East and west combined to make a film together. Today it is common place, but back in the 70s it was almost unheard off.

It is clear that what made the film a success was Bruce Lee. His charisma and his onscreen presence was electrifying. And he was supported by a great cast. Every aspect of Enter made it the gem that it is. The dialogue, the sets, the fights, the exotic story and locations, the music, Bolo Yeung, everything!

One might argue that the fight scenes in Enter the Dragon are nothing great when compared to what has been achieved since then. It is true that the martial arts choreography these days is far more intricate, but not one of these films has succeeded in duplicating that raw kinetic intensity and power of Bruce Lee's fight scenes, especially the underground cavern fight.

THe power, speed and screen presence that Lee possessed was simply incredible. There was something visceral about Lee's fight scenes. They were simple, direct,effective and flashy, though not as flashy to the point that it looks like a tightly choreographed dance, which is what many fight scenes of today's chop socky films look like. Though the dancelike choreography is brilliant in its own way,The intensity of Bruce and his fight scenes was the quality that set him apart from everyone else.

And to this day, Enter the Dragon is still as entertaining as it was 28 years ago. There are very few films where one can watch over and over and not get tired off. This is one of those films and because of that, its got my vote as one of the best(if not THE Best)martial arts movie of all time!

May the spirit of Bruce Lee live on forever.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Breathtaking!, 30 July 2001

Ahh, The Road Home, what can one say about this astonishing piece of film making? Actually quite alot, but alas I fear that my grasp of the English language may not be strong enough to describe the poetic and cinematic brilliance that this film exudes. But here goes...

At its core, the road home is a simple story. A story about love that takes place in a small village in China before the cultural revolution. It essentially involves a young village girl and her love for a young man who comes to teach in her village.

What is amazing about this film is that it uses none of the gimmicks that we have come to expect from a modern day film. No sex, no violence, no special effects,no spectacular action, no extravagant sets, But instead what we get is superb interaction between characters (performed with great emotion by the actors)in very human situations amidst the backdrop of China' countryside.

Many a time, I was glued to the beauty and emotional depth of several of the scenes, especially the scenes which involved Zhang Ziyi's and Sun Honglei's characters. What I found interesting was that the dialogue was kept to a minimum when it came to the interaction between Zhao Di(Ziyi) and Luo (Honglei) A passing glance, a smile spoke volumes more than any dialogue ever could. And accompanied by Bao Shi's haunting musical score,it made those scenes come alive with a kind of magical radiance. Enchanting, dreamlike, hypnotic and beautiful to watch.

Now that's not to say that the dialogue was poor. In almost every scene where words were uttered, they carried such a gut wrenching emotional punch that it was hard not to be touched by them. I was fortunate enough to be able to understand the Mandarin as I felt that sometimes the subtitles were simplified and because of that, lost some of the meaning and context of the actual spoken words.

The film also uses a flashback technique which flips between the present and the past which was no doubt influenced by Titanic. In fact, one can see a poster of Titanic hanging a little bit too conspicuously on a wall in one of the earlier scenes. But in a touch of genius, Yimou presents the past in vivid colour while the present is shot in black and white. A simple but very effective technique. Director Zhang Yimou also does alot of facial close ups of Zhang Ziyi as if to say " Look at how naturally beautiful she is" and I would have to agree. I first noticed Zhang Ziyi in *Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon* but it was her screen presence,talent and charisma in the Road Home that captivated me. She is one of the few versatile young actresses and is probably the best acting export to have come out of mainland China since Jet Li and Gong Li.

So to conclude,The Road Home is in essence, a cinematic journey set in an age of innocence amidst the dreamscape of China's countryside told with a sweeping emotional depth.

This is so much more than just a film, its an experience.

Definitely one of Zhang Yimou's finest. Do yourself a favour and see it, if you haven't done so already.

Final Fantasy ----- CGI REALITY!, 28 July 2001

Final Fantasy has been in production for 4 years and the reason is clear as to why it took so long. In terms of CGI, This film is without question, a landmark achievement which has raised the quality bar and will no doubt be the benchmark by which all future full length CG movies are judged. To put it simply, It makes the 3D animation in toy story look like child's play!

As phenomenal as it is, The film is not without its graphical flaws.

The flaws manifest themselves mostly in the human characters.

I found that texturing on certain 3D characters were done better on some than others. And as good as the 3D modeled characters looked, in one or two scenes, you could tell that that they were synthetic, which spoiled the illusion that they were of flesh and bone. Character movement at times was also a bit unnatural and/or artificial, which tended to detract from that sense of reality.

Secondly, their performances still cannot match the skill of really good actors. Aki's crying scene was mediocre at best. The 3D model just did not have the range of facial expressions that could convey the emotional turmoil that the character was feeling in that scene.

However I did find Dr sid's performance to be very good and in fact the most natural of all the synthetic actors(ie. 3D character models). But then again, it could have been because the Doctor Sid character did not need to have the same emotional range as the two main leads and in that sense it was easier for the modeler/animator to do.

Aside from these gripes, the level of quality and detail in the rest of the CGI was simply incredible, especially the 3D rendered backgrounds.

Now to the story, many people have commented that the story was weak. These are probably the same people who did not get Princess Mononoke. I did draw parallels between the 2 films and there were certainly similar themes present. I found that it did present an original concept as far as Sci fi movies go, even though it did borrow certain elements from other films such as Aliens, Abyss, Armagedden,the afore mentioned Princess Mononoke and even the Dreamcast game Shenmue. (Any Dreamcast gamers here noticed that the eagle flying through the cliffs and canyons was ripped straight from the prologue of Shenmue ?)

But all in all, Final Fantasy is an astounding technical and artistic achievement by all involved and I look forward to the day where a synthetic actor will perform side by side with a real one without the audience being able to tell that one is artificial and the other isnt.

As an example,Imagine a 3D rendered,flawlessly animated virtual Bruce Lee(or any other screen legend of days gone by) acting side by side with today's hottest stars!

Now that would be beyond cool!

Swordfish (2001)
Usual Hollywood action film, 18 July 2001

"Hollywood makes alot of rubbish". That's one of the first lines we hear in the movie and Swordfish, though not completely unwatchable doesnt do much to prove that statement wrong.

While watching this movie, I felt a strong sense of De ja vu, everything in it had been done before. From the characters to the action scenes to the dialogue, The whole movie was reminiscent of THE ROCK, which in my opinion was the better movie and with far better music I might add.

In Swordfish, We get the same old formulaic direction and performances with that fast cut editing that is so common these days in big budget hollywood films. The movie does not in my opinion bring anything new to the genre of action films. Furthermore, The cast was truly wasted in this movie as none of them got the chance to shine.

The action scenes though meticulously executed werent mind blowing or original(apart from the flying bus,but then again we saw something similar in Con air with the airborne car). We get the usual explosions,car chases

and gun play all glued together with the MTV style editing. And what's up with the sexual innuendo and Halle berry's breasts? It did nothing to enhance the story. Purely gratuitous.

Having said that, It is an improvement for Dominic Sena, the same guy who helmed *Gone in 60 seconds*. I wont go into detail here, but let's just say I was even less impressed with *Gone*.

Overall the film is average. Not a complete lemon, but its not a film I would pay to see. Thank goodness I had a free ticket for this one!

10 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Good but not as good as the Manga., 23 May 1999

This movie isn't bad. Very high production values, good camera angles,good set/costumes, cool special effects and visual style as well as decent acting. To be honest I was quite surprised to see this level of quality for a straight to video release.

It tries to be faithful to the original manga without completely ripping it off which was great and presented something which was familiar, yet original.

One negative comment is that the american film makers still don't really know how to shoot martial arts fight scenes. Gary daniels has skills that are far better than what the film showcases.( just watch jackie chan's city hunter)

Overall I gave it a 7/10.