Posts Tagged ‘Donnie Yen’

The Emperor’s Saviour

Mulan

Director: Niki Caro

Cast: Yifeu Liu, Gong Li, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Tzi Ma, Ron Yuan

Film Rating 7 out of 10 – Catch Mulan in Cinemas now or on DisneyPlus

Disney’s bid to attract the massive Chinese cinema going audience with Mulan which was scheduled for a worldwide release on the 27th March 2020 was an ill-timed affair as the leap year that is 2020 brought along a vicious virus from the Far East and ravaged the world, closing down cinemas and forcing cities into lock down.

The effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on world cinema in 2020 has been devastating and only films like Christopher Nolan’s exceptionally brilliant Tenet will attract reluctant audiences back into the cinemas. Many big budget film productions have postponed their release dates until 2021.

Nevertheless, the New Zealand director of Whale Rider Niki Caro did a fairly good job of taking on Mulan, an adventure tale set in ancient China with a completely Chinese cast. Built on the premise that a young and feisty girl from a Chinese village Mulan disobeys her father Zhou played by Tzi Ma (Skyscraper, Arrival, Million Dollar Arm), disguises herself as a man and joins the Imperial army to fight Northern invaders led by Bori Khan played by Hawaiian actor Jason Scott Lee (Alaska is a Drag) and aided Xianniang, a witch played by Gong Li (Coming Home, Curse of the Golden Flower, Memoirs of a Geisha).

Mulan is played by rising Chinese actress Yifei Liu (The Forbidden Kingdom) who rises above her male counterparts in the Imperial army and comes to the rescue of the Emperor played by Martian arts legend Jet Li (The Forbidden Kingdom, Hero, Kiss of the Dragon).

Although the script of Mulan leaves much to be desired and the dialogue seems stilted and uninspiring, the action sequences are great and at least the cast is authentic although it would seem better if this film’s dialogue was in Chinese with English subtitles, but director Niki Caro was obviously appealing to Western audiences while paying homage to her Disney employees.

Unlike Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther which successfully captured the zeitgeist of 2018. Black Panther was released by the Disney owned Marvel Films and was part of the Marvel franchise of superhero films with sufficient legacy to back up the main character.

Mulan on the other hand was a Disney produced film which while brilliantly shot and cinematically constructed, the storyline was predictable and didn’t offer enough depth for this multi-talented cast of Chinese actors who have all appeared in far superior Chinese films including Coming Home, Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower.

Despite some flaws, Mulan is an enjoyable action film set in ancient China, a land filled with loyalty, honour and unbridled patriarchy. Some interesting aspects of ancient Chinese culture are examined but not in the elegant fashion done by far superior directors such as Zhang Yimou in Raise the Red Lantern in his breakthrough film in 1992 which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

Mulan is enjoyable but unfortunately might be overlooked amidst the current existential health crisis engulfing the world. Mulan gets a rating of 7 out of 10 and is spectacular watch but the storyline is not original.

Rebels and Tyrants

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage

Director: D. J. Caruso

Cast: Vin Diesel, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Ice Cube, Hermione Corfield, Michael Bisping, Tony Jaa, Kris Wu

Franchise star Vin Diesel returns in the third instalment of the XXX series, unimaginatively named XXX: The Return of Xander Cage directed by D. J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye and I am Number Four).

Assembling a diverse multinational cast ensures its broader international box office appeal especially in Asia. Joining the cast of XXX: The Return of Xander Cage are Ruby Rose, Danish Bollywood star Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Scottish actor from HBO’s Game of Thrones, Rory McCann (Clash of the Titans), Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Thai actor Tony Jaa (Furious 7).

As the action moves swiftly from The Dominican Republic to a jungle rave in the Philippines, then onto the final showdown in Detroit, this popcorn film delivers for sheer enjoyment ably assisted by a great supporting cast including Australian actress Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, Hitchcock) and veteran star Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Avengers: The Age of Ultron) reprising his role of Augustus Gibbons founder of the covert extreme sports unit XXX.

Whilst there is not enough of the mind blowing stunts that made the original XXX film in 2002 so captivating, there are a fair share including skiing in a jungle (I kid you not), jet skiing off the Philippine coastline and the usual array of car chases, satellites crashing down on major cities to keep audiences thoroughly entertained.

The plot involves a device known as Pandora’s Box which can bring down orbital satellites and hold superpowers to ransom. Naturally, Xander Cage and his team of rebels are asked to retrieve and deliver Pandora’s Box to supposedly safe hands by a blonde haired Jane Marke played by Toni Collette.

The gorgeous Hermoine Corfield (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Mr Holmes) pops up as a sexy hacker in London, making the British capital more sexy than it really is as her opening sequence involves her swimming in a rooftop heated pool.

To make the plot more interesting there is a couple of twists where the real villain is not clearly identified until half way through, but director Caruso approaches the XXX film like a comic book pastiche heavily reliant on CGI and giving audiences exactly what they want: fantastic thrills in exotic locations and enough action to satisfy any adrenaline junkie.

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage is a fun filled action film, which thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously and delivers an enjoyable popcorn thrill ride made all the more amusing by Vin Diesel’s continued smirk on his face and a surprise addition to the cast to link up the franchise into a XXX trilogy. Similar to the hugely successful Fast and Furious franchise, there is bound to be a fourth film in the XXX series now that the producers have received funding from the Shanghai Media Group.

Audiences will enjoy XXX: The Return of Xander Cage for action and laughs but it doesn’t deliver anything more than it’s expected to.

Rebellion in the Galaxy

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Jimmy Smits, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones

British director Gareth Edwards grew up on the original Star Wars Trilogy like most young kids born in the 1970’s and was heavily influenced by directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The Godzilla and Monsters director pays homage to the original Star Wars trilogy in the superb spinoff film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story featuring a diverse ensemble cast.

Felicity Jones

In the lead roles are British actress and Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Inferno) as Jyn Eso and Mexican star Diego Luna (Milk, Elysium) as Cassian Andor along with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) as Eso’s father Galen Eso and unrecognizable Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) as treasonous Empire pilot turned Rebel Bodhi Rook.

Diego Luna

Audiences must remember that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original Star Wars film made in 1977 and centres on the rebels lead by Eso who plan on stealing the plans to the Empire’s galactic weapon of mass destruction, The Death Star. As the film unfolds and there is lots of inter-planetary travelling, Eso along with Andor and an Empire droid wonderfully played by Alan Tudyk battle the mighty Empire commandeered by an evil Orson Krennic superbly played by the blue eyed Australian star Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind).

Ben Mendelsohn

What is most impressive about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the tight narrative and impressive visual effects, the plot ably written by screenwriters Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz who pepper the action packed intergalactic journey with visual treasures and homages to the original Star Wars trilogy which dazzled the world back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Riz Ahmed

Any fanboy or girl of the original trilogy especially the first two films, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back will appreciate all the references in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story including the Death Star, brief appearances by the malignant Darth Vader voiced again by James Earl Jones and even a glimpse of R2D2 and C3PO as the droids wave goodbye to Eso and the gang as they travel to Scarrif, a tropical island planet with an Empire base which resembles the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai resulting in one of the best battle sequences seen in any of the Star Wars films.

Director Edwards sets the bar high with Rogue One with a tight storyline, witty dialogue and solid central performances by Felicity Jones and Diego Luna. There is also some influential supporting roles including Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Saw Gerrera who is Jyn Eso’s guardian after her father Galen is mysteriously captured by the Empire Stormtroopers and Jimmy Smits (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) reprising his role as Senator Bail Organa.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a superb prequel, a visual sci-fi feast which will have specific appeal to the dedicated fans of the Star Wars franchise. Now that George Lucas has sold the rights to Disney, the Star Wars universe is going to expand exponentially and in more innovative ways, cashing in at the all international box offices as each new film gets released.

This is highly recommended viewing for lovers of this extraordinarily imaginative Sci Fi franchise. If you love Star Wars then don’t miss Rogue One, it’s a classic.

 

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