Tag Archives: Daniel Wu

Europa Report (2013, Sebastián Cordero)

Where to start with Europa Report. There are some obvious places. First, it’s in the near future but digital video is about as advanced as it was back in 2004. On a cell phone. Or, you know, the filmmakers wanted to cheap out on the special effects. Another place to start might be the music. Report is a “found footage” picture, yet there’s all this dramatically appropriate music from Bear McCreary. It’s possible one of the crew–the film concerns a manned mission to one of Jupiter’s moons–had an iPod, but why couldn’t that iPod have been used to shoot the video? It would have been sharper. I’ll skip the rest and just talk about

The film has two big problems in director Cordero and writer Philip Gelatt. Cordero tries to use the found footage gimmick to hide all of Gelatt’s contrived or derivative plotting points. Cordero also isn’t able to direct his actors through Gelatt’s dumber moments for them. Most of Report hinges on ostensible geniuses acting like morons.

There’s some really good acting in the film, however, which couldn’t have been easy for the cast because they’re stuck acting to the same stationary cameras. Cordero doesn’t do anything interesting with those fixed setups either. Being found footage does nothing to enhance Report, just makes it cheaper.

Christian Camargo and Karolina Wydra give the film’s best performances. Michael Nyqvist is really good. The rest of the cast is fine, sometimes good, sometimes not.

Report doesn’t get passing marks.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Sebastián Cordero; written by Philip Gelatt; director of photography, Enrique Chediak; edited by Alex Kopit, Craig McKay, Livio Sanchez and Aaron Yanes; music by Bear McCreary; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; produced by Kevin Misher and Ben Browning; released by Magnet Releasing.

Starring Christian Camargo (Dr. Daniel Luxembourg), Embeth Davidtz (Dr. Samantha Unger), Anamaria Marinca (Rosa Dasque), Michael Nyqvist (Andrei Blok), Daniel Wu (William Xu), Karolina Wydra (Dr. Katya Petrovna), Dan Fogler (Dr. Nikita Sokolov), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Dr. Tarik Pamuk) and Sharlto Copley (James Corrigan).


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The Great Magician (2011, Yee Tung-Shing)

The Great Magician is a madcap romp through rural early twentieth century China. It never says rural–Peking is mentioned a couple times–but it feels rural, where a somewhat dimwitted warlord (Lau Ching-wan) can still be powerful. The time period’s a little confusing too. Moviemaking plays a significant part in Magician and all the example films are silents, but when people are making movies, they’re making talkies.

But those confusing parts are nothing compared to the rest. Magician is a political comedy thriller with a lot of magic, some quests, a love triangle, probably some of things too. Oh, right, it’s occasionally narrated by two townspeople who break the third wall to directly address the audience.

Even though director Yee’s not much for composition–Magician’s shots are adequate, but far too reliant on CG, something Kita Nobuyasu can’t seem to shoot–he does keep the circus together. Especially after Tony Leung Chiu-Wai shows up. Until he arrives, it seems like Magician could go anywhere (and even for a little while after he does). Once the film focuses on its tone, it gets to be a lot of fun to watch.

Leung and Lau are great together. Xun Zhou’s excellent as warlord Lau’s seventh wife who he decides is the one he really wants. Paul Chun’s funny as Lau’s scheming subordinate.

There are some great comedy interchanges; most end up being completely unpredictable.

Leon Ko’s excellent music is another big plus.

Magician is a strange, fun picture.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Yee Tung-Shing; screenplay by Chun Tin Nam, Lau Ho Leung and Yee, based on the novel by Zhang Haifan; director of photography, Kita Nobuyasu; edited by Kwong Chi-Leung; music by Leon Ko; production designer, Yee Chung Man; produced by Peggy Lee and Mandy Law-Huang; released by Emperor Motion Pictures.

Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Chang Hsien), Lau Ching-wan (Bully Lei), Zhou Xun (Liu Yin), Yan Ni (Lei’s third wife), Paul Chun (Liu Wan-Yao), Alex Fung (Chen Kuo), Lam Suet (Li Fengjen), Daniel Wu (Captain Tasi) and Kenya Sawada (Mitearai).


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Tai Chi Zero (2012, Stephen Fung)

Presumably the Zero in Tai Chi Zero‘s title indicates a second installment is forthcoming, because this one ends on two cliffhangers. The film joyously embraces its artificiality–there’s no attempt at making the kung fu fighting seem realistic; instead, director Fung concentrates on making it look good and drawing attention to that effort. The opening titles all have annotations, informing the viewer where they might have seen cast members before. The method makes Zero a lot of fun, when it otherwise might not be.

It’s not a particularly fun story. Yuan Xiaochao plays an orphan who ends up in a possibly villainous army, his commander knowingly endangering his life because of a mysterious kung fu-enabling ailment. He journeys to an idyllic village, hoping to save his own life, where he’s met with derision from the townsfolk.

Meanwhile, Eddie Peng plays another outsider who’s never been accepted, but now he’s back to build a railroad through his old village.

Angelababy is the girl; she pines for Peng and constantly kicks Yuan’s ass with the kung fu he desperately wants to learn. All three give good performances, especially Peng. And Tony Leung Ka Fai’s great as Yuan’s reluctant friend.

While the film’s constantly trying to be amusing–and it succeeds almost all of the time–the technical achievements are significant. The photography’s fantastic, as is Katsunori Ishida’s music. Katsunori toggles between grand melodramatic scoring and playful action instantly.

It’s hard to hold the problematic ending against Zero. It’s just too fun.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen Fung; screenplay by Cheng Hsiao-tse and Zhang Jialu, based on a story by Chen Kuo-fu; directors of photography, Peter Ngor, Lai Yiu-Fai and Du Jie; edited by Cheng, Matthew Hui, Zhang Jialu and Zhang Weili; music by Katsunori Ishida; production designer, Timmy Yip; produced by Wang Zhongjun, Daniel Wu and Zhang Dajun; released by Huayi Brothers Media.

Starring Yuan Xiaochao (Yang Lu Chan), Angelababy (Chen Yunia), Tony Leung Ka Fai (Uncle Laborer), Eddie Peng (Fang Zi Jing), Shu Qi (Yang Lu Chan’s Mother) and Feng Shaofeng (Chen Zai-Yang).


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