REVIEW: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON 2: SWORD OF DESTINY

CAST

Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)
Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies)
Harry Shum Jr. (Stomp The Yard)
Natasha Liu Bordizzo (Hotel Mumbai)
Jason Scott Lee (Soldier)

After eighteen years of solitude, renowned warrior-maiden Shu Lien emerges from retirement and travels to Peking, where the Green Destiny—the legendary sword of her deceased love Li Mu Bai—is located. In the forest, Shu Lien’s carriage is attacked by several warriors from the West Lotus clan. As she fights them, a masked horseman comes to her aid, and together they defeat the attackers, revealing one’s identity to be a young man called Wei Fang. At the tower of the West Lotus warlord Hades Dai, a young woman named Snow Vase arrives asking to join his ranks. As Dai approaches, she draws a sword and attempts to kill him, although he easily fights her off, and she flees. As Wei Fang makes his way through the forest, he is approached by a blind enchantress, who orders him to take her to Dai. She tells Dai that his great sword is surpassed by the Green Destiny, and prophesies that if he is to rule the Martial World, he must obtain the sword. Dai is reluctant to storm the home of the emperor’s brother, but the enchantress tells him to send Wei Fang, as the boy and the sword are bound by destiny itself.

Shu Lien arrives in Peking, and is taken to the house of Sir Te, a man like a father to her, who has recently died. Te’s son greets her and reveals that the Green Destiny is kept on display at the house, also recalling the unmentioned love between Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien. That night as Wei Fang breaks into the house and attempts to steal the sword, Snow Vase appears and fights him. During the fight, Snow Vase sees a birthmark on Wei Fang’s chest, which distracts her and allows him to escape. She calls for help and Shu Lien arrives and captures the boy. Snow Vase approaches Shu Lien and asks her to train her in the Iron Way. At a tavern, Meng Sizhao (known as Silent Wolf in the West), the horseman who came to Shu Lien’s aid, posts a warrant for warriors to join him protecting the House of Te. One warrior offers his twenty swordsmen for a high price, and attacks when rebuffed. Four warriors join Silent Wolf in the fight, and he recruits them to his cause: Flying Blade of Shantung; Thunder Fist Chan, famed in Zhejiang; Silver Dart Shi, famed in Fuzhou; and Turtle Ma, famed in that tavern.

Shu Lien begins Snow Vase’s training. That night, Silent Wolf and his warriors arrive at the Te compound. Shu Lien is shocked to see Silent Wolf, her former betrothed, as he was thought to have been killed by Hades Dai many years before. He explains that he was in love with Shu Lien, but knew that Mu Bai was her true love, and had feigned his demise to seek a life of enlightenment in the mountains, as he knew that as long as he was alive, Li Mu Bai would not have asked Shu Lien for her hand. Hades Dai rages that Wei Fang has failed in his raid, and sends his elite warrior, Mantis, to retrieve the sword. She arrives with her raiding party, and Silver Dart Shi and Turtle Ma are killed in the attack. Snow Vase attempts to free Wei Fang from his cage in the courtyard, but she is attacked by Mantis, and Wei Fang reveals the sword’s location. The blind enchantress fights Shu Lien in the sword chamber, killing Sir Te’s son when Shu Lien refuses to relinquish the sword.

As the inhabitants of the House of Te mourn the loss of their dearest companions, Snow Vase explains her connection to Wei Fang’s past. His birth mother was the legendary swordswoman Han Mei. However, as a baby, he was swapped for the infant Snow Vase by her mother, a concubine. Han Mei raised Snow Vase as her own daughter, but never stopped looking for her son. Eventually finding him at West Lotus, she was mortally wounded by Hades Dai and, as she died, implored Snow Vase to find Wei Fang.

Knowing that Dai will send people to kill Wei Fang, Snow Vase frees him, and is horrified to later hear that he has stolen the sword. Silent Wolf tracks the boy down and they fight on a frozen lake. Wei Fang’s master, Iron Crow, arrives and wounds Silent Wolf, allowing Wei Fang to escape and reach West Lotus. Wei Fang offers the sword to Hades Dai, but then attempts to kill him with it to avenge his mother. Shu Lien and the others arrive and fight Dai’s army. Shu Lien fights the enchantress and kills her, using her skills to see through the witch’s illusions. Mantis kills Flying Blade and Thunder Fist, then fights Snow Vase, who defeats her but is badly wounded. Silent Wolf fights Hades Dai on the tower, eventually killing the warlord with his own sword as he reaches for the Green Destiny. Snow Vase survives her injuries, and joins Shu Lien, Silent Wolf and Wei Fang as they take the Green Destiny to the Wudang Mountains where it will be kept safe yet again.Overall a very enjoyable movie, which really needs heart to appreciate, it may be slow at times but it truly allows audiences to be observant and to look at the minor details in such a major motion picture.It would be even better if you already read the original book by Wang Du Lu or the new novel by Justin Hill, as it covers more motivations and intentions clearly. Therefore, do not just view this as a sequel to one of the most successful Wu-Xia films ever made, appreciate this movie and take it as a film of its own, and you will enjoy it thoroughly.

REVIEW: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

CAST

Chow Yun-Fat (Bulletproof Monk)
Michelle Yeoh (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers)
Chang Chen (Red Cliff)
Cheng Pei-pei (Brothers Five)
Sihung Lung (The Touch)

The film is set in the Qing Dynasty during the 43rd year (1779) of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) is an accomplished Wudang swordsman and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) is a female warrior and professional body guard. The death of Mu Bai’s closest friend and fiancée to Shu Lien complicate these characters’ feelings for one another. They are reconnected when Mu Bai , after choosing to relinquish the warrior lifestyle, asks Shu Lien to gift his sword “Green Destiny” to their friend Sir Te (Sihung Lung) in Beijing. Long ago, Mu Bai’s master was murdered by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), a woman who sought to learn Wudang skills.
One evening, a masked thief sneaks into Sir Te’s estate and steals the sword. Mu Bai and Shu Lien trace the theft to Governor Yu’s compound and learn that Jade Fox has been posing as Jen’s governess for many years. Mu Bai makes the acquaintance of Inspector Tsai (Wang Deming), a police investigator from the provinces, and his daughter May (Li Li), who have come to Peking in pursuit of Fox. Fox challenges the pair and Sir Te’s servant Master Bo (Gao Xi’an) to a showdown that night. Following a protracted battle, the group is on the verge of defeat when Mu Bai arrives and outmaneuvers Fox. Before Mu Bai can kill Fox, the masked thief reappears and partners with Fox to fight. Fox resumes the fight and kills Tsai before fleeing with the thief (who is revealed to be Fox’s protégé, Jen). After seeing Jen fight Mu Bai, Fox realizes Jen had been secretly studying the Wudang manual and has surpassed her in combative skills.
At night, a desert bandit named Lo (Chang Chen) breaks into Jen’s bedroom and asks her to leave with him. A flashback reveals that in the past, when Governor Yu and his family were traveling in the western deserts, Lo and his bandits had raided Jen’s caravan and Lo had stolen her comb. She chased after him, following him to his desert cave seemingly in a quest to get her comb back. However, the pair soon fell passionately in love. Lo eventually convinced Jen to return to her family, though not before telling her a legend of a man who jumped off a cliff to make his wishes come true. Because the man’s heart was pure, he did not die. Lo came to Peking to persuade Jen not to go through with her arranged marriage. However, Jen refuses to leave with him. Later, Lo interrupts Jen’s wedding procession, begging her to come away with him. Nearby, Shu Lien and Mu Bai convince Lo to wait for Jen at Mount Wudang, where he will be safe from Jen’s family, who are furious with him. Jen runs away from her husband on the wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. Disguised in male clothing, she is accosted at an inn by a large group of warriors; armed with the Green Destiny and her own superior combat skills, she emerges victorious.
Jen visits Shu Lien, who tells her that Lo is waiting for her at Mount Wudang. After an angry dispute, the two women engage in a duel. Shu Lien is the superior fighter, but Jen wields the Green Destiny: the sword destroys each weapon that Shu Lien wields, until Shu Lien finally manages to defeat Jen with a broken sword. When Shu Lien shows mercy and lowers the sword, Jen injures Shu Lien’s arm. Mu Bai arrives and pursues Jen into a bamboo forest. Following a duel where Mu Bai regains possession of the Green Destiny, he decides to throw the sword over a waterfall. In pursuit, Jen dives into an adjoining river to retrieve the sword and is then rescued by Fox. Fox puts Jen into a drugged sleep and places her in a cavern; Mu Bai and Shu Lien discover her there. Fox suddenly reappears and attacks the others with poisoned darts. Mu Bai blocks the needles with his sword and avenges his master’s death by mortally wounding Fox, only to realize that one of the darts hit him in the neck. Fox dies, confessing that her goal had been to kill Jen because she was furious that Jen had hid the secrets of Wudang’s far superior fighting techniques from her.
As Jen exits to gather up an antidote for the poisoned dart, Mu Bai prepares to die. With his last breaths, he finally confesses his love for Shu Lien. He dies in her arms as Jen returns, too late to save him. The Green Destiny is returned to Sir Te. Jen later goes to Mount Wudang and spends one last night with Lo. The next morning, Lo finds Jen standing on a balcony overlooking the edge of the mountain. In an echo of the legend that they spoke about in the desert, she asks him to make a wish. He complies and wishes for them to be together again; back in the desert. Jen then suddenly leaps over the side of the mountain.Beautiful cinematography, an amazing soundtrack, moving performances from the whole castand some of the most breathtaking fight-scenes ever filmed. The first fight between Jen and Shu-Lien – the roof-type scene – is mesmerising. A movie classic for all ages

REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.2

CAST

Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Dave Dautista (Riddick)
Vin Diesel (XXX)
Bradley Cooper (Ameircan Hustle)
Michael Rooker (Slither)
Karen Gillan (Oculus)
Pom Klementieff (Oldboy)
Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.)
Chris Sullivan (North Star)
Sean Gunn (Super)
Sylvester Stallone (Judge Dredd)
Kurt Russell (Big Toruble In Little China)
Laura Haddock (Transformers 5)
Gregg Henry (Jason Bourne)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible)
Michelle Yeoh (Star Trek Discovery)
Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider)
Tommy Flanagan (Sin City)
Ben Browder (Stargate SG.1)
Molly C. Quinn (Castle)
Jeff Goldblum (Thor: Ragnarok)

In 2014, Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Baby Groot are renowned as the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ayesha, leader of the Sovereign race, has the Guardians protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster in exchange for Gamora’s estranged sister Nebula, who was caught attempting to steal the batteries. After Rocket steals some for himself, the Sovereign attacks the Guardians’ ship with a fleet of drones. The drones are destroyed by a mysterious figure, but the Guardians are forced to crash-land on a nearby planet. The figure reveals himself as Quill’s father, Ego. He invites Quill, who is accompanied by Gamora and Drax, to his home planet, while Rocket and Groot remain behind to repair the ship and guard Nebula.Meanwhile, Ayesha hires Yondu Udonta and his crew, who have been exiled from the greater Ravager community for child trafficking, to recapture the Guardians. They capture Rocket, but when Yondu shows reluctance to turn over Quill, his lieutenant Taserface leads a mutiny with help from Nebula. Taserface imprisons Rocket and Yondu aboard Yondu’s ship and executes his loyalists while Nebula leaves to track down and kill Gamora, whom she blames for all the torture inflicted on her by their father, Thanos. While imprisoned, Rocket and Yondu bond. Groot, together with Yondu’s loyalist Kraglin, frees Rocket and Yondu and they destroy the ship and its crew as they escape, though not before Taserface tips off the Sovereign fleet.Ego explains he is a god-like Celestial, an immortal consciousness that manipulated the matter around it to form the planet with itself at the core. Forming a human guise, he traveled the universe to escape his loneliness and discover a purpose, eventually falling in love with Quill’s mother Meredith. Ego hired Yondu to collect the young Quill after Meredith’s death, but the boy was never delivered and Ego had been searching for his son ever since. He teaches Quill to manipulate their Celestial power. Nebula arrives at Ego’s planet and tries to kill Gamora, but fails and the pair reach an uneasy alliance when they discover caverns filled with skeletal remains. Ego reveals to Quill that in his travels he planted seedlings upon thousands of worlds which can terraform them into new extensions of himself, but they can only be activated by the combined power of two Celestials. To that end, he impregnated countless women and hired Yondu to collect the children; Ego killed them all when they failed to access the Celestial power. Quill attacks Ego after Ego reveals that he deliberately caused Meredith’s death. Ego forcefully uses Quill to activate the seedlings, which begin to consume every world.Ego’s pet empath, Mantis, grows close to Drax and warns him, Gamora, and Nebula of Ego’s plan just as Rocket, Yondu, Groot, and Kraglin arrive. The reunited Guardians reach Ego’s brain at the planet’s core, and fight the Sovereign’s arriving drones. Rocket makes a bomb out of the stolen batteries that Groot plants on Ego’s brain, while Quill battles Ego with his newfound Celestial powers to allow the other Guardians to escape. The bomb explodes, killing Ego and causing the planet to disintegrate. Yondu sacrifices himself to save Quill, who now realizes Yondu did not deliver him to Ego in order to spare him from the fate of Ego’s other progeny, and that Yondu was Quill’s true “daddy”. Having reconciled with Gamora, Nebula still chooses to set out and attempt to kill Thanos. The Guardians hold a funeral for Yondu, which is attended by dozens of Ravager ships, acknowledging Yondu’s sacrifice and accepting him again as a Ravager.In a series of mid- and post-credit scenes, Kraglin takes up Yondu’s telekinetic arrow and control fin; Ravager leader Stakar Ogord, inspired by Yondu’s sacrifice, reunites with his ex-teammates; Groot starts growing back to normal size, exhibiting typical teenage behavior in the process; Ayesha creates a new artificial being with whom she plans to destroy the Guardians, naming him Adam; and a group of uninterested Watchers listen to their informant discussing several experiences on Earth.If you enjoyed the first volume, you would enjoy this one even better. I would recommend you to watch the first one before seeing this one to have a better understanding on the movie. Though I am pretty sure that most likely you would have seen it. I am confident that you will be entertained.

 

REVIEW: STAR TREK: DISCOVERY – SEASON 2

Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones, Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Anthony Rapp, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Mary Wiseman in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)

Starring

Sonequa Martin-Green (Rivers Wash Over Me)
Doug Jones (The Watch)
Anthony Rapp (Rent)
Mary Wiseman (Longmire)
Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful)
Wilson Cruz (He’s Just Not That into You)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)

Star Trek: Discovery (2017)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Mia Kirshner (The Vampire Diaries)
Tig Notaro (In a World…)
Michelle Yeoh (The Lady)
Alan van Sprang (Reign)
Rachael Ancheril (Heroes Reborn)
Jayne Brook (Gattaca)
Ethan Peck (In Time)
Sonja Sohn (The Originals)
James Frain (Gotham)
Mary Chieffo (Miss Dial)
Kenneth Mitchell (Captain Marvel)
Rebecca Romijn (X-Men)
Melissa George (Triangle)
Hannah Cheesman (Defiance)
Emily Coutts (Crimson Peak)
Patrick Kwok-Choon (Wyatt Earp)
Oyin Oladejo (Pond)
Ronnie Rowe (A Simple Favor)
Arista Arhin (Odd Squad)
Raven Dauda (Gossip)
Julianne Grossman (Superman/Batman: Apocalypse)
Sara Mitich (The Expanse)
Bahia Watson (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Hannah Spear (Versus Valerie)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
Tara Nicodemo (Every Day)
Chris Violette (Power Rangers SPD)
Kenric Green (The Walking Dead)
Yadira Guevara-Prip (Supernatural)

Doug Jones, Anson Mount, David Benjamin Tomlinson, Rachael Ancheril, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Sean Connolly Affleck in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)Star Trek: Discovery’s inaugural season was faced with a seemingly impossible feat. The CBS All Access series was tasked with delivering a fresh new take that appeased a hardcore fan base and remained true to the franchise’s 50-year history, while also appealing to a Trek noob who wouldn’t know Voyager from Deep Space Nine. Although Season 1 stumbled in its efforts to remain tightly within canon while also telling an exciting and cohesive story, the show managed to pull off a commendable first run thanks to a charming bridge crew, a delectably villainous leader in Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and that unapologetic love of science and adventure which has come to define the franchise as a whole.Anson Mount, Rachael Ancheril, and Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)Building on that, Discovery really hits its stride in Season 2. With the Klingon War on the backburner, the series is finally able to breathe, and as a result, delivers a refreshing sophomore run that just feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off its shoulders. After receiving a distress call from the USS Enterprise, the Discovery crew ditches its plan to pick up a new captain on Vulcan in order to help out fellow Federation officers in need. Starfleet’s most prized ship is offline after suffering a catastrophic meltdown while tracking one of seven red signals that have suddenly appeared in space. With his ship on the sidelines, Captain Pike (Anson Mount) takes the helm of the Discovery for an important rescue mission that was only meant to be temporary. But those ominous signals pose a serious threat to the universe so of course, he’s needed to stay on and uncover that mystery, thus kicking off a thrilling adventure in deep space.Bringing in an iconic character like Pike could have been disastrous but Discovery somehow makes it work. He’s seamlessly woven into the narrative, bringing exhilarating new energy that never overpowers the series’ core cast. Mount’s Pike is dashing, charismatic and genuinely likable, but not without his faults. He’s very much the man Gene Roddenberry envisioned so many decades ago but never feels like a relic of the past. He’s exactly what Discovery, both the crew and series as a whole, needs right now. But he’s also just a fraction of what makes Season 2 such an enjoyable experience.With Discovery learning to let loose and have fun, Season 2 utilizes its arsenal of delightful characters in a way that it never could before. Owing to that is the adorkably wonderful Tilly (Mary Wiseman), last season’s Miss Congeniality whose expanded role is like a much-needed serotonin boost. Brilliant, funny and bursting with nerdy optimism, the new season finds her finally coming into her own as a confident leader, and that transformation is a pure joy to watch unfold. Equally amusing is newcomer Tig Notaro’s Denise Reno, the USS Hiawatha’s brilliant chief engineer whose deadpan humor easily makes her this season’s low-key gem.Anson Mount in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)But among a diverse group of amiable personalities, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) remains the true heart and soul of the series. It’s mostly through her eyes that we learn about the world that Discovery has created, and in Season 2, her story again takes center stage. With the exploration of Burnham’s past comes the inevitable arrival of her adoptive brother Spock (Ethan Peck), and their family drama sets the groundwork for an engrossing journey in the new season.Linked through the same visions of a mysterious red angel, their broken dynamic breathes new life into Spock, a character who’s been explored inside and out, having been around for five decades. But Discovery presents a different Spock, someone on the losing side of an internal battle between reason and logic. He’s not the Vulcan you know from Star Trek: The Original Series, nor does he need to be. With this latest iteration set years before the events of TOS, the show found the loophole it needed to introduce this bearded, disheveled version into official canon — and it’s handled with great care.Ethan Peck in Star Trek: Discovery (2017)By all means, Discovery isn’t perfect. It’s still working to find that natural balance between nostalgia and modernity. But Season 2 takes a carefully bold, gripping, and undeniably fun stab at it and in turn, is a much better show.

REVIEW: THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR

CAST

Brendan Fraser (Bedazzled)
Jet Li (The One)
Maria Bello (The Cooler)
John Hannah (Spartacus)
Luke Ford (Animal Kingdom)
Michelle Yeoh (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones)
Isabella Leong (Spider Lilies)
Anthony Wong (The Mad Monk)
Russell Wong (Romeo Must Die)

In ancient China, a brutal and tyrannical warlord unites the country’s kingdoms into an empire and becomes the Dragon Emperor. He orders the construction of the Great Wall of China to bury and curse his dead enemies, eventually learning power over the classical elements fire, water, earth, wood and metal. The Emperor soon grows fearful that his death will end all he has accomplished and summons Zi Yuan, a sorceress who is said to know the secret of immortality. She seemingly casts a spell on the Emperor in Sanskrit, before he executes General Ming, his trusted friend and Zi Yuan’s secret lover. He impales Zi Yuan, but having foreseen such events, she immolates and detains the Emperor, transforming his army into the Terracotta Army, and flees.In 1946, Alex O’Connell, Rick and Evelyn O’Connell’s son, and his archaeology professor Roger Wilson locates the Emperor’s tomb. Though attacked by a mysterious woman, they succeed in bringing the coffin to Shanghai. Meanwhile, the British government entrusts the O’Connells to take the Eye of Shangri-La back to China. However, they learn that Wilson works for a rogue military faction led by General Yang, who had provided the financial backing of Alex’s expedition. Yang believes that the Emperor is the one who can lead China out of the chaos following WWII and plans to resurrect the Emperor using the Eye, which contains the Elixir of Life. They open it, but it accidentally lands on the statue of the carriage driver, which is revealed to actually be the Emperor’s mummified body. He accepts Yang’s service but kills Wilson and escapes.Along with Evelyn’s brother Jonathan Carnahan, the O’Connells and the mysterious woman, Lin, travel to a stupa in the Himalayas that will reveal the path to Shangri-La when the Eye is placed on top of it. With the help of Yetis summoned by Lin, the group hold off Yang’s soldiers but the Emperor discovers Shangri-La’s location. Alex attempts to trigger an avalanche. The Emperor throws a dagger at him, but Rick shoves Alex and is stabbed instead. Lin takes the group to Shangri-La, where Zi Yuan still lives and heals Rick’s wound. The group discovers that Lin is Zi Yuan’s daughter, both rendered immortal due to the power of Shangri-La’s waters. As Rick heals, Alex and Lin have grown attached to each other, but Lin refuses due to her immortality; unable to bear falling in love with Alex only to watch him grow old and die, just as Zi Yuan mourned for General Ming.The Emperor and General Yang eventually arrive and attack them in Shangri-La, and the Emperor bathes in the mystical waters, which restores his human form and youth, and gives him the ability to shapeshift. Transforming into a dragon, the Emperor kidnaps Lin and flies back to the tomb, raising his Terracota Army, planning to cross the Great Wall, where they will be invincible. The O’Connells and Zi Yuan pursue the Emperor to the Great Wall where she sacrifices her and Lin’s immortality to create an undead army from beneath The Great Wall, led by a revived General Ming. As Alex rescues Lin, Zi Yuan fights the Emperor and is mortally wounded, but secures the dagger. Zi Yuan gives the dagger to the group before dying. Meanwhile, the Emperor goes into the Great Wall to use his elemental powers to negate the undead spell. Rick and Alex fight off the Emperor while Evelyn and Lin fight and kill Yang. The Emperor gains the upper hand over Rick, but Rick and Alex manage to stab the Emperor in his heart with the dagger, killing him and defeating the Terracotta Army. Ming’s army briefly celebrates before finally moving on to a peaceful afterlife.The O’Connells return to Shanghai while Jonathan decides to move to Peru with the Eye of Shangri-La, as he wants to go somewhere with no mummies. However, in postscript, it is revealed that upon his arrival, mummies were discovered in Peru.The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has a lot of physical comedy and computer-generated creatures as the previous two movies did. Fans of the Mummy films will be entertained as long as their expectations are checked at the door. I, for one, still enjoyed the mindless entertainment.