Monday, January 21, 2008

of love and war, but mostly war

noticeably, my weekends are jammed pack with stuff that i have a sudden influx of things to talk about come monday. this weekend was DVD week as my cousin and i decided to stay in and update ourselves with movies we had wanted to see but never got the chance to. special thanks to our pirated DVD vendors for continuously defying international law and providing us with our very well copied, cheap entertainment.

i managed to get a copy of 2 movies while i was at the mall the other day. the warlords and beowolf. i also borrowed from my other cousin ratatouille, resident evil 3, and no reservations.

of the movies i got, i have to make special mention on the warlords.

i have always been a fan of period chinese films. ever since my younger days of watching kung fu films with jacky chan, period chinese films have always had a special place in my heart. they always manage to tell a good story. true, cinematography needed a lot of work with more realistic back drops and better dubbing, but such imperfections made it more charming i believe. since crouching tiger, chinese period films however have upped the ante and have started spending loads to polish their films to international grade. a great move i believe since this made the films appeal to a wider audience. chinese films now are able to match the richness of their stories, the poetry of their story telling with the effects that modern film making has to offer.

the warlords is the latest addition to the period film genre. a historical depiction of the events that happened during the qing dynasty when civil war wrecked havoc on imperial china, the warlords tells the tale of a band of blood brothers who quashed the internal conflicts of the empire, yet in the process, ends up in their own personal destruction. the movie stars 3 of probably the greatest chinese actors with jet li, andy lau and takeshi kaneshiro.

the story was very much action packed with war scenes one after another (the title was pretty much a dead give-away) and does not contain much martial arts scenes that people would expect in a movie starring jet li. it was good i think since it gave him a chance to show off that he was more than mere fancy moves. who would have thought that the wushu master had a dramatic bone in his body after all? though, i would not deny, a kung fu battle wouldn't have hurt. i guess the creators wanted to keep the essence of the story pure, since the tale revolved around the bond formed between three men. jet li in the end played his part very well, a war ravaged soul plagued with his demons that eventually made him a despicable character until his violent demise.

andy lau provided most of the dramatic input into the story, again proving that he is a master of his craft. though i wasn't that greatly impressed with his performance in the house of flying daggers, he definitely put my doubts to rest in this film. i liked how he looks more "seasoned" in the movie. you can't really play a plausible bandit if you look like you just stepped out from a facial. but then again, looks was definitely not all he was banking on. his performance as the morally conflicted leader is award worthy. i honestly haven't seen him act this intensely before. there was a scene in the movie where he was bound by chains and was screaming, pleading for jet li to stop a massacre. it was so emotionally riveting, i found myself mesmerized by the moment. this could just be andy lau's ticket to hollywood, though i doubt he really needs anymore recognition.

takeshi, takeshi. my enchanting japo-chin boy provided the much needed eye candy in the movie. they needed it quite since 90% of the cast was clad in dirt, armour, soot and were toothless. the single leading lady wasn't much of a looker either and for the most part of the movie, actually looked like a guy. andy lau was bearded and jet li, well, he can kick ass, let's just leave it at that. yet despite donning a bit of facial hair and smeared in dirt, tak's immensely good looks cannot be contained. a pity since his acting is also rather good in this movie, playing the youngest of the bloody three, the idealist zealot who takes in jet's instructions without question, only to have him betray his ideals and thus throw him in deadly spiral of delusion and madness. i have heard of an uncut version of the movie where takeshi's character meets a rather gruesome end, yet could not verify if such a version has been released.

the movie is more graphic and violent than it's predecessors, the creators toying probably with the fact that "300" was gory as well, but was acceptable and not offensive. i however feel that the gore in this film could have taken a bit the back seat, especially in the war scenes. they were already doing well with the acting and could have at least continued that as well in the war scenes instead of having a ball splattering blood all around. the acting, as previously mentioned was great with the leads portraying their character's evolution throughout the movie. the story was interesting as it is based on actual accounts in china's history. however, i somehow feel that since they already gone through all the trouble to adapt it to film, they could have at least made it more interesting than just weaving in a love affair and have conspiracies sprinkled about. the movie also felt rather choppy for me, i'm figuring that this could be due to bad editing. there seemed to be a lot of "meat" to the scenes that looked like they were abruptly cut short. so much so that in the end, it was more disrupting than aiding in the smooth flow of the movie.

overall, the warlords was a good movie. a good view to how turbulent imperial china was and how men become monsters and how power corrupts all. for better viewing, it also helps to have a ginormous bag of HOLY KETTLE CORN at hand!!

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