Thursday, May 26, 2011



It goes to state the obvious that the first KUNG FU PANDA was a super duper rollicking blockbuster hit.

It had well earned its keep as the imagery and animation were top-notch.

Naturally the money rolled in as the international reviews were stupendous.

And everyone knows in due time, it will surely return with a vengeance.

We are embracing a cinematic era of “remakes” and “sequels” where every animation company is jumping on the bandwagon, therefore we are really spoiled for choices.

Well, KUNG FU PANDA 2 has finally arrived – bigger, bolder with cute furry animals taking you through the poetic stances of the impressive KUNG FU martial arts …..

and with rip roaring action itching to burst at the seams …. glory be!

Ahhh ….KUNG FU fighting, yeah.

Enter a fantasy world of ancient China with warlords, Zen masters, a vibrant century old of the awesome Kung Fu.

This is one raucous animal kingdom where animals play the lords of the ring.

Welcome back, Panda.

There’s always a “child” nestling in each and everyone of us, but hey -

let’s just say that animation these days is not just crafted for kids, with plotlines digging deeper and darker and the action fast and furious.

It’s just another way to penetrate the primary family market to deliver the goods and collect the money.

For a fact kids don’t go to the cinemas alone. They drag their parents along.

The PANDA 2 story:

Po is now the supreme Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five.

But Po’s new blissful, peaceful life is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret destructive weapon to wipe out China and eliminate the formidable Kung Fu art.

Po has to delve into his forgotten past to uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins in order to be able to understand his roots, and unlock the strength he needs to succeed.

KUNG FU PANDA 2 may be one of the best 3D animated features in recent years.

It lives up to the promise of its predecessor.

There’s a magical buoyancy in the parable and we are swept into a colorful world of cute animal imagery through painstaking animation by director Jennifer Yuh Nelson that’s breathtakingly fantastic.

Expect a multicultural potpourri laden with a feast for the eyes and ears.

The superlatives?

It’s entertaining, wholesome, fast paced, laced with quirky humor fit for a royal king.

And this one’s for you too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“LET THE BULLETS FLY” 讓子彈飛 Movie Review. Good STUFF is surely WORTH waiting for.


Finally this one arrives.

It’s never too late and good stuff is definitely worth waiting for.

“LET THE BULLETS FLY” the made-in-China film that ate up a whopping production budget of 18 american million dollars, is one classic example.

It reaches our shores at a time when most Asian countries have already rested their mark.

If you are a Chinese mainlander, you’d surely love this movie with all its rhythms and tones, as you are its primary captive audience.

China men know when to pull their craft.

Yet outside this target bracket there will be a myriad of foreign followers too.

Reviews that poured in from countries where this film was screened recently were overwhelmingly splendid – art, soul and everything.

Box office ratings were amazing, bestowing it as CHINA’s third top money grossers of all time.

So what does this Reviewer think?

Let’s start with the preamble:

It kinda is a crazy-hazy-days-of-summer comedic action adventure designed to keep you on edge and to tickle your ribs.

Director Jiang Wen (himself as one of the three male leads) takes a divine stab at his version of Western genre spoof with his latest venture “LET THE BULLETS FLY”.

He treats it gingerly with a Robin Hood twist, pitched against the complex Chinese Warlord era.

The plot is set in China during the tumultuous 1920′s, “LET THE BULLETS FLY” stars a smart opportunistic mountain bandit by the name of Pocky Zhang (played by Jiang himself).

In the beginning he ambushes the local governor’s train, taking the governor’s advisor Tang and wife as hostages.

Zhang then hangs up his bandit’s ways and bring his gang into town, posing as the dead governor.

In this remote village called Goose Town, he sees wealthy opportunities and intends to stay.

Instead of getting rich by taxing the poor and then splitting the proceeds with the rich, he aims the other way round.

He decides to rob the rich and share the loots with the poor villagers.

He has found steadfast comrades (or so it seems) in his captives – Tang (Ge You) and his wife (Karina Lau).

However the trio finds unexpected retaliation in the form of a powerful county warlord named Huang (Chow Yun Fat) who had previously assassinated five local governors.

Huang guards Goose Town zealously from a nearby fortified citadel.

Fiery confrontations leading to bloody gunfights, crazy exchanges and edgy battles of wit ensue in a comedic merry-go-round.

A bold, refreshing change in formula is director Jiang’s decision to smear this film with laugh galore, strewing the script throughout with dark humor.

A magnificent ensemble cast of established veterans reeks of an astounding “pow-wow”:

The powerful actors are Jiang Wen, Ge You, Chow Yun-fat, Carina Lau and Chen Kun.

As with most of Jiang’s movies, he also ropes in family and friends such as Zhou Yun his wife, and brother Jiang Wu.

There are “surprise” appearances from celebrated director Feng Xiaogang and Obama’s half brother Mark Ndesanjo.

It’s as good as you can get. And more.

Did this Reviewer observe raw touches in storyline of the recent animated movie RANGO?

Pure coincidence, naturally.

”LET THE BULLETS FLY” is a stark, witty comedy about how even the best-laid plans can go awry the moment you are starting to trust a new-found friend by overstaying your confidence.

For those who have a decent grasp of the Mandarin language, you can say that the script is wonderfully penned (reportedly amended 30 times during pre and post production stages for soulful perfection).

If you are one who depends on the subtitling to flow in with the story,

then you’d find that a lot of corny jokes in the true Chinese literary sense (you have to be fast to catch them) would have been lost in translation.

It has a mesmerizing musical score to boot.

The plot is rife with screwball buffoonery and rapid-fire verbal exchanges.

Applaudable performances from an all star cast add a profound touch of poetic justice.

It’s one movie that might prompt you to return to the cinema for a second watch.

So there!

Sunday, May 22, 2011



If you’re a parent having a horrific problem raising irresponsible children, then you are not alone.

Take a cue from this film.

Here bratty kids are seen, heard and more. (shudder)

The wise adage that preaches “Spare the rod and spoil the child” can hardly help.

Right, go ahead – rattle the kids, pummel and sock it to them. Whatever.

This could be the best disciplinary action ever, otherwise how can rotten adolescents ever learn?

But hold on there …… everything is “reel”, happening only in this comedic movie.

Smart alec Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is back again with this trademark grin and smirk. He really thinks he is cute.

And he comes with the same disjointed “members-in-a-wimpish-family” package.

Throw in the hysterical mum who writes for the newspaper’s family column. She is omnipresent.

Add in the nerdy dimwit father. He is just pure background element.

And the tyrannical bully of an older brother Rodrick, without which we’ll have no story.

Toeing the line is the irritating bawling baby who’s too pretentious for his wee age.

The entire complicated wear-and-tear family are all here, to bring the house down with more gags and mindless pranks.

Keep on hoping, folks.

That kid (Zachary Gordon) returns, now in his seventh grade, still wimpy, and very much bullied by his obnoxious elder brother (Devon Bostick).

Enter the exasperated parents (Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn) who are trying to cultivate in them this element called sibling love. Sibling love don’t grow on trees anytime and needs to be nurtured.

As with any sequel, the pleasure of unexpected discovery is sorely missing. The plot is predictable.

Other than that, this film tags closely to its original, with a script by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah (from Jeff Kinney’s book) that’s as outrageous as their first one.

Bizarre poop-and-potty jokes are strewn all over, plus there’s a wild teenage party. Some “yawny” escapades will hit stalemate.

David Bowers directs with aplomb, and young Zachary Gordon, the child star of the show carries this film as naturally as he did the first.

There are no overwhelming surprises, no disappointments either.

Robert Capron plays Gordon’s best friend, Peyton List his schoolhouse crush.

“DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES” is a light breezy piece on a lazy cinema outing.

As a “feel-good” movie, it can be immensely entertaining, only if you stop complaining and comparing it to any summer blockbuster.

Friday, May 20, 2011

VEN. JIAN ZHEN (鑑真大和尚)- 2D ANIMATION Movie Review. To SEE is to BELIEVE.

Ven. Jian Zhen (鑑真大和尚) PRESS PREVIEW

You will find a soulful sprinkle of HEART and a hearty spread of SOUL in this Taiwanese 2D Animation film that took five years in the production.

It is also fondly pampered with some conspicuous 3D special effects to enhance creative authenticity.

Visually, you will be more than pleasantly impressed.

After all, “VEN. JIAN ZHEN” may not be any other movie.

The focus may rest firmly on the foundation of the BUDDHIST faith,

but it’s a real eye opener for non-Buddhists to appreciate -

and in appreciating, we can uncover a beautiful philosophy behind the teachings of BUDDHISM and how this religion spreads far and wide across vast continents.

You need not be a staunch believer to understand another’s culture and religious beliefs.

But a fact remains that all men are brothers and curiosity thus kills the cat, right?

Everything is simply a matter of choice. And the will to learn.

In Buddhism we are taught that each precious moment in an uncluttered life should be filled with profound peace and clarity

and not be undefiled by cultural conditionings and painful neurotic tendencies.

It is a tad disturbing to realize in Buddhist rites, that a family unit is built from past karmas. Positive karmic affinity from a past life results in a blissful family taking shape in this life. Past negative karmic affinity on the other hand brings about unhappiness and suffering in the present life.

We reap what we sow and in our past lives we’ve already written the script for what is currently happening in the present.

Buddhism is indeed about looking at and examining this thing called birth and death, sickness and old age, happiness and the impermanence of beauty.

It cajoles us to delve into our inner selves and seek the answers to our daily grind in this chaotic world of strife.

Taiwan Film Director ROGER HSIAO

“VEN. JIAN ZHEN” is directed by Roger Hsiao, produced by Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會), a Buddhist charitable organisation founded in Taiwan, and presented by humanitarian satellite channel Da Ai (literally, “Big Love”) Television (大愛衛星電視股份有限公司).

The film charts the repeated attempts of a real-life Buddhist Master, the Venerable Jian Zhen who perseveres in his beliefs and his persistent travels by ship to Japan to reform the Buddhist teaching there despite the initial set-backs.

In Nara, Japan, A.D. 763. In Toshodai Temple, Chinese Buddhist Master the Venerable Jian Zhen dies, aged 76, after preaching for nine years in Japan.

His Japanese disciple Si Tuo remembers how in 733, himself and another Japanese monk were sent to China to learn the Buddhist scriptures there

and to persuade Jian Zhen to come to Japan to develop and purify Buddhism in native Japan.

It is only after a span of 10 years that they finally got to meet Jian Zhen at Daming Temple in Yangzhou and convince him to travel to Japan.

Jian Zhen agrees and selects 17 other Chinese monks to accompany him on this journey fraught with perils.

The journey fails a total of four times and it is only in June 748, on their fifth attempt, did they manage to arrive at Zhenzhou.

There they are almost killed by fierce natives but are finally saved and welcomed by a Zhenzhou dignitary and given an old temple to renovate.

In 751 they set out for the sixth time via Yangzhou, where a Japanese ambassador, Fujiwara, finally smuggles them aboard a ship.

The mission is eventually and successfully accomplished in December 753 when Jian Zhen and his monks reach Japan.

At this final voyage of discovery, they are rewarded with their own temple in Nara.

Thus the “mission impossible” ends with a happy note.

The Venerable Jian Zhen had since made great contributions to the development of Buddhism in Japan, as well as, in culture, architecture, and Chinese medicine.

This animation feature is an inspiring tribute to the Venerable Jian Zhen.

It takes us through a spiritual journey by way of the colourful Buddhist inspired animation whilst basking in the background of a beautiful soothing musical score.

Take note that this movie was one of the top cinematic hits in Taiwan in 2010.