From the I-Cannot-tell-a-lie-dept.
Top ten excuses why this column didn’t run last month.
10. I was working for the NSA trying to break an as yet unbreakable Canadian encryption system.
9. I was mobbed and kidnapped by rabid Backstreet Boys fans who, blinded by tears, mistook me for Howie D.
8. I was in Japan wrestling with New Japan Pro Wrestling doing a King of the Death Matches tournament. I lost in the second round when Nakamaki sandwiched me between two beds of nails, poured scorpions, broken glass and thumbtacks over that and then power-bombed the referee on top of the pile.
7. I was busy reinforcing my Y2K(ook) bunker, making French toast and testing household products like glass cleaner and toothpaste to ascertain whether or not they’d still function currently after the big odometer change.
6. I was brimful.
5. Peter Jackson called and asked if I could take over on this little Lord of the Rings project he’s working on. I felt bad about saying no, so I flew down to new Zealand to tell him the bad news.
4. My computer sprouted a personality and, fearful of being converted to a Linux machine, refused to reboot until I had Linus Torvalds himself call and tell him everything would be okay.
3. I rented the South Park movie and watched it continuously for 236 hours.
2. I was busy getting ready for my first Iditarod. I’ve got a great plan, instead of sled dogs I’m going to use a team of elephants and at the starting line I’m going to trample all of the other competitors’ equipment.
While no one else is around of course…
1. Zombies snuck into my house and ate my brain.
Now on with the regularly scheduled garbage.
Donnie Yen Ji-Dan is going to be back in town Friday Jan 14, in attendance when his film Legend of the Wolf is screened at the MFA. It starts at 7:45 PM.
Lots of things are going on with Donnie these days. For starters he just returned from Romania where he was working on the new Highlander movie. From all accounts that was a real success for him. He may also be making the permanent jump to the States in the near future, which would mean that four out of the top ten or so greatest screen fighters would be working in North America. For those of you keeping track that’s (in no particular order) Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung and now Donnie. Add in guys working behind the scene like Yuen Biao (Jackie’s upcoming Shanghai Noon), Yuen Wo-Ping (The Matrix) and Corey Yuen Kwai (Lethal Weapon 4, the upcoming Romeo Must Die) we’ve got a pretty formidable lineup messing around over here. Not too shabby for a country that used to hold The Karate Kid up as a good example of a martial arts movie. I’ll hopefully have a lot more info on all of this stuff (and an interview) in next month’s installment. Make sure to check that out.
Speaking of that MFA thing, even without Donnie in attendance that’s a good film to see in the theater. Donnie’s directorial debut is really solid. Not perfect, but for a first time feature it’s very impressive. The action scenes, as you would expect, are phenomenal.
In other news, the publicity for Jet Li’s upcoming Romeo Must Die has started. The trailer is available on-line at the Rome Must Die Official Site (http://www.romeo-must-die.com/.) The trailer has reinvigorated my interest in the film. The trailer looks pretty good and although I have many misgivings about the film (the story for one), I’m once again pretty excited to see it. It also tested better than The Matrix, which is pretty amazing considering that The Matrix has grossed over 450 million worldwide.
Anyway, I guess I should toss out a couple of reviews. Just to tide you over until all of the above surfaces…
This new era Shaw Bros movie (complete with the classic SB logo untouched) is a pretty good film. Not the equal of the classic Shaw productions of old (36th Chamber of Shaolin, etc.) or even Director Yuen’s greatest achievements (Fong Sai Yuk for one), Hero still manages to match a little of that old Shaw Bros. feeling with modern production values and 90s choreography.
A tale of gangs, power and corruption in Shanghai, Hero features an interesting combination of leads. On the one hand is photogenic, late 90s leading man Takeshi Kaneshiro and on the other is long-time industry stalwart, Yuen Biao. It’s an interesting combination that works as the two build a believable relationship from their intitial scenes together. The first of which also stands as one of the highlights of the film. It’s a classic Yuen Kwai action scene featuring the two fighting it out over a pocket- watch on top of a speeding horse drawn carriage. Excellent stuff.
Saviour of Soul
An okay movie made worthwhile by the atmosphere, attitude and action scenes. Featuring an impossibly slick look and a Sumo sized portion of Yuen Kwai super-fu, Saviour of Soul is a perfect example of why I like this director’s work. Here he takes a story chock full of melodrama, goofiness and cliché and sells it to the viewer with ease. By pushing the envelope in terms of choreography and by feeding into the melodramatic aspects, Yuen gets away with things that would elicit groans if filmed by any other director. "Sky King" Aaron Kwok’s character in this film is a good example of this. Dressed in a Phantom of the Opera type mask, a cape and sporting a most ludicrous head of silver hair, Kwok’s Silver Fox is a successful character because he’s played like a villain in the Jack Kirby/ Stan Lee Marvel Comics style. In other hands this character could have been angst-ridden to the extreme and would have provided far too many opportunities for Kwok to pout and/ or brood. As it stands he’s a wild, pulp villain come to life, steadfastly seeking revenge and always coming up with just one more trick/ fantastic escape.
That’ll do for now folks. I’ve got to rev myself up for next month’s installment. Hopefully nothing out of the ordinary will happen between now and then as I’ve already run out of creative excuses….
This here article first appeared in Shovel Magazine #20, early 2000.