Dateline Asia – The joint is jumping. Ip Man winning of the Hong Kong “Oscar” for Best Picture has effectively launched the “Platinum Age of the Kung Fu Film,” with major martial art releases every month,
This month the prize goes to True Legend, veteran/venerable director/choreographer Yuen Wo-ping’s labor of love about Beggar So – the character that originally vaulted him (and Jackie Chan) to superstar status thirty-two years ago. Then, Yuen’s father played a variation on the character to Jackie’s young, mischievous Wong Fei-hong in Drunken Master (a.k.a. Drunken Monkey in a Tiger’s Eye).
This time Vincent Zhao — the man who played George Lazenby to Jet Li’s Sean Connery in several installments of Tsui Hark’s Once Upon a Time in China series (replacing Jet as Wong Fei-hong in films four and five) – is Beggar So, supported by the likes of Michelle Yeoh, Cung Le, Jay Chou (the new Kato), and even David Carradine in one of his last performances.
Now, in addition to the excitement created by the production, the announcement has gone out that twenty minutes of the epic will be projected in 3D … the first time a kung-fu thriller has gone dimensional since the schlocktacular Dynasty way back in 1977.
Seemingly every day includes another announcement that can set martial art movie mavens’ hearts aflutter. This month the excitement comes in three’s. First, Ong Bak 3, the sequel to Tong Jaa’s most recent jungle adventure, has unleashed its preview trailer and its initial poster design.
After the well-reported problems plaguing Ong Bak 2, in which the filmmakers struggled with its cliff-hanger ending, the teaser shows Tony ready to break the (villains’) chains that bind him and take on all comers to get revenge for his family’s betrayal and slaughter.
After that, it seems that he hopes to hit the ground running, if kung-fu king Donnie Yen’s recent quote is any evidence. “Indeed,” Yen told the Chinese media. “There’s such a plan. Director Stanley Tong and (producer) Raymond Wong are helping me invite Tony Jaa, and I hope they succeed … but we can’t divulge the details.”
Tong, the man behind another famous “three” – specifically Police Story 3 (a.k.a. Supercop), remains super busy. In addition to extending Donnie’s collaboration invitation to Tony Jaa, he’s also spearheading the long-awaited, much-anticipated Armour of God 3.
“Yes,” he corroborates. “I’ll soon be working with Jackie Chan on his hundredth film, (subtitled) Chinese Zodiac. I am serving as the film’s producer, while Jackie is directing. Jackie hasn’t directed any film in a while, but I have complete faith in his ability as a director, and I’m also looking forward to this commemorative work of his.”
As are all the Chan man’s many fans, who have been awaiting a supreme Jackie kung-fu adventure since Drunken Master 2 (a.k.a. the unfortunately dubbed and poorly packaged Legend of Drunken Master). Happily, Chan is dedicated to making his third Armour outing into his biggest yet, allocating ten million dollars for one major action scene alone,
“I have been hesitant about this for a long time,” he admitted. “Many told me it is too extravagant, and advised me against it. But eventually, I’m still going for it. This film will contain many vigorous action scenes. I’ll almost be fighting throughout the film, but my most demanding action scenes will stop at this movie.”
That’s a shame, of course, but Jackie’s other skills are still much in evidence. Now we can all see for ourselves when Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases Jackie’s latest acting triumph, The Shinjuku Incident, this summer. It’s Jackie’s first film sans kung-fu, and it’s a powerful, dramatic tale of crime and punishment. Check it out while holding your breath for Chinese Zodiac.
Ric Picks – DVDs
Nobody does samurai film DVDs like AnimEigo. Not only do they chose some of the best movies, but they surround them with the most interesting, accurate, illuminating extras this side of Criterion. Their latest release Bushido: The Cruel Code of the Samurai, is no exception.
The film itself is incredible and important. A samurai discovers his ancestors’ wretched sacrifices and self-betrayals all in the name of the eminently corruptible, skewed, system that ignored human nature, leading to untold tragedy. Directed by the great Imai Tadashi in 1963, Bushido won the prestigious Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival, and is now lovingly preserved on DVD for all to savor. For anyone who loves samurai movies, it’s a must-have.
36th Chamber – Well, we all know economic times are tough. Last issue I announced the hopefully temporary suspension of Asian Cult Cinema. Now I take up the warning flag of the beloved Giant Robot magazine – the publication for all lovers of Japanese pop culture.
Thankfully they’re not dead yet, and can tell you far better than I can all the ramifications of their condition. Check out http://www.giantrobot.com/donate to see how you, too, can be the hero of this story.