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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Prime example of just how unique Japanese animation can be, 29 July 2016

The "Mardock Scramble" trilogy consists of 3 Japanese anime films: "The First Compression" (from 2010), "The Second Combustion" (from 2011), and "The Third Exhaust" (from 2012). Each of these films is about an hour long, which sums to a three-hour film in total.

Taking place in a futuristic city called Kamina City, a young prostitute is taken in by a notorious gambler. One night, he abandons and attempts to murder her in an explosion. However, she is rescued and transformed into a cyborg by a man named Dr. Easter. Afterward, an artificial intelligence in the form of a glowing yellow mouse accompanies her to adapt to her new life. She is trained to use the advanced technology fitted on her to defend herself against the gambler's attempts to have her killed in order to stop her from testifying against him.

Mardock Scramble is bursting with so much creativity and awesomeness that it provides a surprisingly unique viewing experience. It combines elements that have no business being in the same movie together. I briefly mentioned the glowing yellow mouse, which by the way has some awesome technological abilities, and this character is introduced soon after the opening sequence which is a gritty, violent, uncomfortable moment where a teenage prostitute gets beaten and almost murdered. And that's not all. You have some other animals that make appearances later on, and I can wholeheartedly assure you that you will never see dolphins and sharks the same way again.

Almost unbelievably, the eccentric mix of gritty revenge violence, nudity, science fiction and technology, and cute fluffy mice is only the tip of the iceberg. I do not want to get into the plot details of the second and third movies – mostly because there are so many surprises to be had – but I will say that if you enjoy lengthy gambling sequences that take place in a glitzy casino and showcase a battle of wits between the player and dealer, then you're in for a real treat.

Based on what little I've told you thus far, you may wondering how a trilogy of films can introduce such wildly disparate elements and actually work. Well, I'm happy to say that they work wonderfully because the scriptwriting really does a good job of transitioning between these different elements in such a way that the storyline feels natural and logical within the world that it creates. I would also say that the overall tone doesn't shift quite as much as you may think. Yes, there are some very dark moments here, but even the lighter scenes (like when the glowing yellow mouse cuddles with the girl) are expressed as more of a melancholy moment. There is not goofy humor or anything like that, and I think that helps to keep everything together.

The writing also creates some very interesting character interaction. The relationship between the girl and her fluffy mouse is actually very endearing and I did care about them as things progressed There's also the battle of wits that I previously mentioned. You get a sense of quality to the Mardock Scramble films because it seems like someone thought this stuff thru.

You're probably thinking to yourself, "Such an odd set of films probably had a limited budget." I did a search the internet myself but could not confirm the budget. But it's obvious that Mardock Scramble had a healthy production behind it because the animation looks very nice. Some of the detail and use of color creates a visual spectacle that's beautiful to look at.

There's not a lot of criticisms I can find for Mardock Scramble. Obviously, if you have a problem with the mix of elements that I previously mentioned, then that's one thing but I think that's one of the things that makes this trilogy so interesting to watch. I would say that the viewer will be forced to piece a few things together. These movies don't explain every little thing, so the viewer is asked to figure some things out for themselves. Nothing mind-blowing, but it can create some confusion. For example, the abilities of the technology that the protagonists use is not well defined, so you just have to roll with it. Also, the pacing is a bit on the slow side at times.

In any case, I really enjoy these films and they represent why Japanese animation is so unique. This trilogy is widely available on DVD, so be sure to check these out.

Accident (2009)
Another underrated film on this website, 28 July 2016

This film is underrated. Oh well, not every movie can be made by Marvel.

This film is about a professional hit-man and his team of self-styled "accident choreographers", who kill their victims by trapping them in well crafted "accidents" that look like unfortunate mishaps but are in fact perfectly staged acts of murder. He is consistently plagued by guilt, and the memories of his recently lost wife don't make things any easier. Even worse, one of his team members dies in an apparent "accident", which forces him to stay one step ahead of their competition.

One important thing that you need to understand about "Accident" is that it's a non-stop exhibition of paranoia because the scriptwriting is first-class as it straddles the line between chance and intent through a number of events that may signify an orchestrated murder by another party. The way this works is that some events are immediately shown to be acts of human intent – for example, the opening scene is clearly shown to be a murder that is made to look like an accident – but other events are left ambiguous, and you're not sure if it's an act of human intent or a moment of coincidence (or chance). So you're placed in the same situation as the protagonist because he's also not sure. And that's really the foundation of the entire movie, and it's a solid foundation to stand on.

It may be a surprise to you that the story moves slowly, but this could be considered a positive because it allows the paranoia to take center stage and it focuses a lot on developing the main character. The entire film revolves around this guy, making this just as much of a character piece as it is a series of suspense sequences. With that said, the "accidents" themselves are very cool and the direction is top notch. This was actually directed by Pou-Soi Cheang, and "Accident" was his best film in his filmography up to this point – representing an improvement over his previous titles. And I still think this is his best work, despite the fact that he has given us some very entertaining stuff between 2009 and the present day (such as "SPL 2: A Time for Consequences", "The Monkey King 2", and "Motorway").

The lead actor is Louis Koo, who earlier in his career appeared in a bunch of the "Troublesome Night" movies. Most fortunately, his roles subsequent to that franchise were far more reliable and entertaining. He's definitely an actor whose filmography is worth exploring because he's been in a lot of good movies. "Accident" is one of them, and I really liked his performance in this. It's a bit on the eccentric and gloomy side, but that's important for his character.

I definitely recommend "Accident", which is one of the better slow-burn suspense thrillers in recent memory. It is widely available on DVD, so be sure to check this one out.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Fairly entertaining film that avoids jump scares and has a realistic mannequin, 26 June 2016

While rehearsing for a stage play, the cast and crew are troubled by strange events that are connected to a mannequin. Hideo Nakata directs this soft re-imagining of his horror film "Ghost Actress" (1996), but this turned out to be a very different film. This is essentially a mannequin horror film, not a ghost film, which is always welcome in my book because the concept has an old school style. Some may criticize this style as being cheesy, but I enjoyed it and they avoided CGI in favor of practical effects.

The biggest flaw of this film is the storytelling structure, which is very predictable and incorporates plot points you see all the time in this genre. That does weigh the film down a bit and prevents it from being great. Acting is okay and the characters are on the bland side.

Fortunately, the mannequin element makes it worth watching. This is one of the most realistic looking mannequins I've ever seen. Scare tactics range from very good to mediocre, with some freaky scenes near the end. Not sure what some of the other reviewers on this site were watching, because there were only a few jump scares in this one - certainly far less than what you'd see in the "Insidious" franchise.

"Ghost Theater" is a pretty good flick.

Inside Men (2015)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Excellent Crime Drama, 12 June 2016

A former political henchman seeks out revenge for being dropped by a ruthless politician. Meanwhile, a determined investigator tries to nail the politician himself, and a shady newspaper editor manipulates matters behind the scenes. This has a complex story that shifts back and forth in time, with a lot of maneuvering by a fairly large cast of characters, but the script is so cleanly written and presented that it is easy to follow after a brief period of adjustment by the viewer. It will take a bit of time, early on, to figure out which characters are aligned with whom, and how everyone is related. But that slight sense of confusion eventually dissipates and transforms into a totally immersive, entertaining experience because characters are properly developed, with decisions and motives that are fleshed out nicely.

Most of the players here are quite shady, so it's almost like rooting for the lesser of all evils, but it works really well because a few of these characters become more appealing as the film progresses. And that's one of the big positives that can be found in "Inside Men" – there's some multi-dimensionality to enjoy, which makes it easy to root for the protagonists that emerge from the pool of corrupt characters. On the other hand, you will find some of the others to be very dislikeable. The newspaper editor – in particular – is a real snake, and I was rooting against him the entire time.

This is one of those films that gets more gripping and intense as it moves along. It just gets better and better, with the entire final hour being flat-out awesome. There is a lot of dramatic tension that is earned and I was glued to my television screen to see what would happen next. I have seen a few online movie reviewers criticize the film for being conventional, which is true to a degree. It is a crime drama, after all, and it has some similarities to films that came before it. With that said, however, the nuance and complexity that is presented keeps the viewer off balance. I wasn't entirely sure how things were going to play out during the second half of this movie, which helped to keep things fresh.

There are a few recognizable faces here, but the big-man actor is Byung-hun Lee – who I'm sure you've seen elsewhere. He's been in popular Korean films such as "A Bittersweet Life", "The Good, the Bad, the Weird", "I Saw the Devil", and "Masquerade." His performance in "Inside Men" is one of his better outings, in my opinion. He's successful at portraying his character as intimidating, flawed, and endearing all at the same time. This guy is really good actor, but I wish he would stop wasting his time in American movies. I'm sure it's beneficial for him to try to break into Hollywood, but every single time I've seen him in a Hollywood film, he's been wasted. For example, I was looking forward to seeing him play the Terminator in that stupid Genisys movie, but he only had like 5 minutes of screen time. It's ridiculous.

In any case, I definitely recommend "Inside Men", which is one of the better crime dramas of the past decade. I did watch the 3-hour extended cut, which is 50 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I'm not exactly sure what scenes are included in one but not the other, but I can say that the 3-hour cut is really good. There is a Region 3 DVD available with English subtitles, and that release includes both the theatrical and extended cut.

Bakuman. (2015)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The manga business is less desirable than you might think., 5 June 2016

An amateur artist teams up with an amateur scriptwriter (both of which are still in high school) to create manga and break into the business at Weekly Shonen Jump, but the demands and stress of the industry may derail their plans. The stress of working in this particular industry is a major theme here, and it's communicated in multiple ways.

First, there's the competitive aspect. Our protagonists are very quickly roped into the cut-throat nature of business and almost immediately create rivalries with other manga artists. Success at this particular company is dependent on sales of the manga you're drawing, so every week a Top 10 list is posted in the office, which gives everyone a gauge as to how well their manga is doing. That creates rivalry, because you need to perform better than the other manga artists to stay on that list.

Second, there's the survival aspect. If your manga does not sell well, it is discontinued and you will have to go back to the drawing board to produce something else. But you're not a permanent employee of the company, so if your manga fails, you may never get another one of your works published ever again. It all depends on whether or not they like your stuff. It would seem to me that the job security of this profession is not good at all because you're constantly fighting to keep your job.

Third, the weekly deadlines result in very long working hours. It seemed like these guys were working about 80 hours per week, at least. In fact, it's probably more because at times they had difficulty finding enough time to sleep. That's just insane. I previously worked at a Big 4 accounting firm for 5 years, so I know what working long hours is like. But even I was horrified at what our protagonists were going through in this movie. It almost makes the profession of manga drawing seem undesirable. This is not a film that glorifies the industry, and I like that.

Bakuman has a fantastic cast of young acting talent. Start with Takeru Satoh, who recently starred in the awesome Rurouni Kenshin trilogy. Then we have Ryunosuke Kamiki, who starred in Poison Berry In My Brain, The Kirishima Thing and has appeared as a villain in films like As the Gods Will and the second and third Rurouni Kenshin films. Then we have Shota Sometani, who is practically everywhere recently. He was in the Parasyte movies, Tokyo Tribe, Wood Job, As the Gods Will, etc. Finally we have Takayuki Yamada, who had a lead role in the Crows Zero movies, and has appeared in Lesson of the Evil, 13 Assassins, and many others. So we have solid core of young acting talent that helps to establish a foundation for Bakuman to build on.

Another big positive is the rhythm and pacing, which will keep the viewer glued to their screens throughout the entire runtime. The film keeps moving and it maintains interest. The story plays out very naturalistically; even the romantic subplot is nicely portrayed and really like how it concluded. There's a nice dramatic impact to everything and the protagonists have very likable personas. There are also some very funny scenes along the way, which always helps to humanize the characters and make them even more relatable.

Stylistically, there are a few creative sequences that use manga drawing special effects that are blended with the live action shots – and it works really well. It's something a bit different, but I liked it. One final surprise, for me at least, was the scoring and soundtrack, which are really good and were apparently performed by a Japanese band by the name of Sakanaction. I may have to check out some of their stuff.

I definitely recommend Bakuman, and I can't really think of any big flaws to complain about. This is a solid movie.

Cold Eyes (2013)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Highly entertaining remake of "Eye in the Sky" (2007), 27 March 2016

This is a remake of the excellent Hong Kong film "Eye in the Sky" from 2007.

A high-tech police surveillance team attempts to take down a gang of ruthless bank robbers. If you'd like more detail on how exactly the protagonists go about their job, check out my review of "Eye in the Sky." Now in terms of "Cold Eyes", events play out in a very similar fashion. Some sequences are practically shot-for-shot, but there are also a number of differences that make this worth watching – even if you've already seen the original film. In fact, these two films have become one of my "go to" double features. I love watching these back-to-back.

One reason for this is that you get to see the differences between Hong Kong and South Korean filmmaking. The realistic, suspense-driven "tailing" sequences are preserved and proficiently executed, but "Cold Eyes" has a slightly higher octane, with some added punch in terms chases, shootouts, and hand-to-hand fighting. So it "pops" a bit more when the action hits. It's also 30 minutes longer, which should probably result in some pacing issues – but that's not the case. It takes a bit more time developing the characters and drama, but everything continues to movie briskly. There's also a bit more comedy here that works well. However, that does not necessarily mean that "Cold Eyes" is a better film, because I slightly prefer "Eye in the Sky" due mostly to the fact that it really sticks the ending. The ending to "Cold Eyes" is certainly satisfying, but it's more commonplace and less poetic.

So what about the acting in "Cold Eyes"? It's really good. Kyung-gu Sol is the lead actor here. Not a familiar name, but he's been in a bunch of good movies: "Peppermint Candy" from 2000, "Public Enemy" from 2002, "Oasis" from 2002, and "No Mercy" from 2010. Very good actor, and this is probably my favorite role of his. The lead actress is Hyo-joo Han, who is always awesome. I'll watch her in anything. And finally, the villain is played by Woo-sung Jung – who you may have recognized in films such as "The Good the Bad the Weird" from 2008 and "The Divine Move" from 2014. He plays the bad guy with slightly less nuance than Tony Leung Ka-fai did in the original, but Jung is very menacing in this one. A real cold-blood killer.

On a final note, there's a fun cameo at the very end of the film. So keep an eye out for that. Just like "Eye in the Sky", I highly recommend "Cold Eyes." It's widely available on DVD. And I'm telling you that these two films make a fantastic double-feature for a movie night. Watch "Eye in the Sky" first though.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The ultimate surveillance film, 27 March 2016

This is basically the ultimate surveillance film that revolves around the covert operations of an undercover police unit attempting to gather intelligence on a sophisticated crew of jewel robbers. So the way the film works is that you have this sub-division of the police department that has maybe a dozen or so operatives, in civilian clothes, who attempt to identify and gather information on suspected criminals. So let's say that there's a robbery somewhere and a street camera catches the image of a suspect. Well, this sub-division will search the other street cameras in the area and see how far they can follow this guy, to see where he went after the crime was committed. Eventually you're going to lose him, but if you have an idea of an area that he frequently goes to (whether it's near his home or work, etc.), then you dispatch this surveillance team into the streets to stake out the area in an attempt to find him, follow him, and gather information on him.

So most of the film concerns the protagonist operatives as they do their jobs, which is really interesting to watch. From the very first minute, the cloak-and-dagger shadowing begins and continues right up to the final moments. This contributes a slow-burn suspense that keeps the viewer on edge. Although technically this is a "slow moving" film, the pacing still seems very brisk due to the premise. And there are also some great moments when a protagonist is in a position that may expose the entire operation.

The overall quality of "Eye in the Sky" is impressive on all fronts. The direction is very engaging, with fluid camera-work that keeps things moving while at the same time effectively showing everything that is happening. The viewer is constantly aware of the positions and locations of all of the characters, which is key when you're dealing with the theme of surveillance and "tailing" suspects. Also, the music is excellent and very catchy. It's perfectly suited given the themes of the film.

Now what about the acting. It's exceptional, and all of the actors have great chemistry together. We have another appearance by Simon Yam and this is one of my favorite performances from him. When I first saw this movie – years ago – I had seen a bunch of Yam's more nasty, notorious films where he plays the bad guy, so his turn in "Eye in the Sky" as a reserved, intelligent, extremely likable father-figure totally convinced me of his range as an actor. He's fantastic in this. The lead actress is Kate Tsui, who is also surprisingly excellent in this. I immediately became a fan of hers after watching this film, but the only other memorable role of her career subsequent to this was when she appeared in the Donnie Yen's flick "14 Blades" from 2010, where she played a villain. Now I have heard that many of her best roles are in TV dramas, so I definitely need to check those out if I can find them. And finally, we have Tony Leung Ka-fai, who plays the villain here in impressive fashion. This guy is paranoid and very sharp, with a fantastic memory – which automatically makes him a challenge for our protagonists. As an FYI, there are two Tony Leungs on the Hong Kong acting scene. The more popular actor in the west is Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, who you've seen in films such as "Hard Boiled" from 1992, "In the Mood for Love" in 2000, "Infernal Affairs" from 2002, and "Lust Caution" from 2007. I'm a big fan of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai – he has a very suave, slick look to him that is instantly charismatic. But I must say that Tony Leung Ka-fai has significantly grown on me over time, and I think that his role in "Eye in the Sky" represents some of his best work. So that's just another reason to watch this movie.

The one thing that might irritate some viewers is that there are a few improbable coincidences that are used throughout. I think that – in that case – it's a bit easier to swallow because right at the beginning of the movie, the theme of "coincidence" is alluded to by Simon Yam's character. He specifically tells Kate Tsui's character that sometimes you just gotta get lucky to catch these guys – and it happens more often that you might think. So they introduce "coincidence" as an "up front" theme of the film, so it feels less like a contivance and more like an interesting aspect.

In my opinion, "Eye in the Sky" is a contemporary classic. I could watch this movie a thousand times and not get sick of it. Fans of mostly realistic, suspense-driven "tailing" sequences ala "The French Connection" will be drooling all over themselves. And it's fairly easy to find on DVD – so watch it!

Work of art, 27 March 2016

Technically, it's a 3-episode OVA ("Original Video Animation"), with each segment lasting around 35 minutes. But since the sum of these 3 parts is basically the length of a feature film, one could be forgiven for treating it as such. And that's what I do. I consider this a feature film. So here's the plot synopsis: A young man uncovers a delicate Venetian glass that holds a startling secret within: a haunted beauty, named Cossette, has been waiting 250 years for someone to set her spirit free. The man soon becomes obsessed and determined to help the girl trapped inside the crystal, but the necessary physical and psychological sacrifices might be too great for him to bear.

The first thing I want to point out: this film is one of the most visually stunning anime I've ever seen. Virtually every single frame is saturated with fantastical Gothic eye candy. The use of color is real treat for the eyes, and there's a wide variety of color schemes that are used. It really has a beautiful mix and keeps changing things up, which means that the viewer will be constantly mesmerized by its presentation. This is supplemented by two creative choices: (First) The protagonist is transported – via the Venetian glass – into a nightmarish world. This allows the filmmakers to go "all out" on the visuals. (Second) The environments and old school architecture designs are very cool to behold. There are a few flashbacks set in the real world that have a European vibe to them. And many of the "nightmare world" sequences showcase otherworldly objects and phenomena. All of these things come together to create a fantastic visual experience.

As if that weren't enough, the scoring is just as phenomenal. Some beautiful music is composed for this film. To describe it, it's very romantic, magical, and mysterious. Piano and violin are used quite a bit. The music of "Petite Cossette" is a true accomplishment that should be mentioned more often when people talk about their favorite anime music. The official soundtrack is widely available and I highly recommend you pick up a copy. I have it and listen to it a lot.

But the positives of "Petite Cossette" are not limited to its visual and audio qualities, because the characters and story are fascinating. Cossette's spirit is basically cursed, because in order to release her from that curse, she needs a human being who is willing to endure the pain and suffering that should have befallen her murderer. So in Christ-like fashion, a man must willingly endure this reckoning in order for Cossette to be redeemed. But, in some sense Cossette herself is emotionally conflicted with this scenario because she doesn't want to see someone she cares for suffer to such a degree. So their relationship is very interesting. Also, there is a dense romantic tone that mirrors the horror. I'm a huge fan when romance and horror are expertly blended together, and this movie is one emphatic example. The themes of love, sacrifice, and haunted imagery are blended together, because painting and artistry are introduced and become very important themes in their own right. As one online reviewer noted (I believe it was, "The result is a creepy riff on beauty, love, the madness of artists, and the treachery of images." That sums things up nicely.

There's one aspect to this film that could prove frustrating for some viewers. There is some surreal imagery that may confuse you. The script intentionally keeps the viewer off balance with events that may not be easily interpreted during a first viewing. I say this because there are some moviegoers who need everything explained thoroughly, with no ambiguity or open ends. If you're one of those people, this film may frustrate you at times. Nevertheless, the general course of events is very easy to understand. It's just that there are some scenes that will require some effort from the viewer to interpret the details.

In my opinion, Le Portrait de Petite Cossette qualifies as a work of art, and it's one of my favorite anime films of all time. Most fortunately, it is widely available on DVD. So be sure to watch it, if you don't mind some disturbing imagery and ambiguity to steer thru.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Enjoyably wacky, 27 March 2016

So here's the story. An estate project involving reclamation of the sea threatens the livelihood of the mermaids who rely on the sea to survive. So they dispatch one of their own to seduce and kill the project manager. The director here is Stephen Chow, who has also acted in many films. His more popular directorial efforts include Shaolin Soccer (2001) and Kung Fu Hustle (2004), but two of my personal favorites are From Bejing With Love (1993) and Journey To the West: Conquering the Demons (2013). If you're familiar with his work, you will know what to expect with Mermaid. He gives us a charmingly wacky, high energy film that moves at a brisk pace from start to finish. There are tons of jokes that are consistently peppered at the viewer; some work better than others, but it helps to keep the viewer engaged throughout.

The premise itself also allows for some unorthodox character interaction, which is especially entertaining. How many comedy movies concern a nutty mermaid who is attempting to seduce and assassinate someone? I always like it when a movie is a bit different, and this one certainly is. Like some of Chow's other films, there are some rather serious and violent moments that are introduced, but they work well despite resulting in some tonal shifts. The reason I feel this way is because this film makes its lead characters likable and you don't want to see them get physically harmed. So that's a positive.

The lead actress here is Yun Lin, who is a newcomer, but she dominates the proceedings with a very expressionistic performance. When she shows up for the first time, her make-up is all messed up and she's practically screaming her lines. You're saying to yourself, "Is this the lead actress?" Acting like this can get extremely annoying, but I have to say that she nails it very well. To give a performance this energetic and yet still be funny and likable is quite an accomplishment. She was definitely good in this. The lead actor (Chao Deng) is also very good. He plays off of Yun Lin properly and they have good chemistry together. Finally, I have to point out that the supporting actress (Kitty Zhang) could very well be the most beautiful woman on the planet. My goodness! The first time I saw her was in the very romantic comedy "All About Women" (2008) and really liked her performance in that one. She's just as good in Mermaid. At one point during the later half, she gets quite serious and she's entirely convincing. I do not want this woman getting angry with me.

With all of that said, however, I would not elevate Mermaid into quite the same class as the previously mentioned movies from Stephen Chow's filmography. But at the same time, I'm not exactly sure why I feel that way. Maybe it's the environmental theme and characters, which are basic and not particularly nuanced. So in some sense these qualities limit the overall depth of the film.

Also, the special effects are low grade and cartoonish. There's a lot of mermaid and tentacle stuff going on, which is not particularly convincing from a visual standpoint. This flaw is limited to being a minor distraction due to the light overall tone. For some reason, I easily forgive lackluster special effects in comedy films. And to be perfectly honest, I think moviegoers place way too much emphasis on special effects nowadays. If the film itself is immersive, low-grade special effects can be perfectly fine. Clash of the Titans (1981) is a great example of that. I love that movie.

Regardless, I definitely enjoyed Mermaid, and it could very well move up my ratings list after a second viewing. If it plays in a cinema in your area, check it out. It is not yet available on DVD, but there is a good chance at a wide release given the popularity of the director.

Action-packed martial arts extravaganza!, 3 March 2016

This is my review of The Tai Chi Master, a Chinese action film from 1997. Not to be confused with the Jet Li movie from 1993, this one stars Wu Jing and is a two-hour film that was condensed from a 25-episode television series. Yes, you heard that correctly. A 25-episode television series (with each episode lasting 45 minutes each) was cut and re-edited to fit into a mere 2 hours. Such an endeavor may seem impossible, but it's emphatically successful here. Definitely one of the best martial arts movies you'll ever see, but it does have a few drawbacks.

First of all, the production values are not the best. The visuals are a bit hazy and the sound design could have been better. Not a big deal, because I find that I get used to it fairly quickly. Second, editing is a bit choppy – which is probably a consequence of editing a television series down into movie form. Third, the storyline feels a bit rushed at times. This is set during the 1800s and is basically about a young man who learns Tai Chi and clashes with a number of people, one of which is a vindictive prince. The overall story and conflicts are good enough, but its the side stories that are weakened by this condensed version. However, one positive aspect that helps to mitigate the weaknesses in story is the likability of the protagonists. There's a bit of humor that's used well, and the actors have good chemistry with one another and it's fun watching them interact.

But that's not the best aspect of this movie. The real reason to watch this is for the martial arts. I kid you not, this is one of the most action-packed martial arts movies ever made. The first hour is peppered with entertaining fights, but the truly spectacular scenes are found during the second hour, which begins with a pagoda sequence (lasting a whopping 20 minutes) that represents exactly what Bruce Lee was going for when making Game of Death. If you remember, Bruce Lee wanted his character to fight a different opponent with a different fighting style on each level of the pagoda. Now, the Game of Death that was actually released in 1978 only has about 15 minutes of Bruce Lee footage because he passed away before he got a chance to finish it. Well, the pagoda sequence in The Tai Chi Master forces our protagonist fight against a Korean kickboxer, a Mongolian wrestler, a Miao pole fighter, a master of inner chi, a Japanese lady ninja, and a drunken monk. Let me put this into perspective. It's a treat when you see one fight in any action movie that showcases opponents with completely different fighting styles. This movie gives you 6 in a row! Utterly insane.

And that's not all. Like they say in those infomercials, "But wait, there's more!" After all of this, we a three-phase duel between two practitioners of Tai Chi. So this time, you get two guys who use a very similar style, and it's just awesome. One of these fights takes place amidst hundreds of hanging swords.

These fights are so intricately choreographed, it will blow your mind. There are so many martial arts moves here that I've never seen before in any other movie. I am not an expert on martial arts, but even I feel like I have a much greater knowledge of the style of Tai Chi after watching this movie – because you see so much of it, and it's captured so well.

This movie and Kill Zone (2005) made me an instant fan of Wu Jing. I love this guy and I try to watch every action movie he's in. He's had a very inconsistent film career, with inexplicable patches of inactivity and/or quality. It's nice to see him reach some financial success in recent years. Both Wolf Warrior and SPL 2: A Time for Consequences made a lot of money in 2015, so he's on a bit of a hot streak.

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