THE FOUR TRILGOY

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THE FOUR trilogy is Based on the famous novel Si Da Ming Bu (四大名捕; The Four Great Constables) by Wen Ruian. A story that has at his heart four constables that work together to solve cases and fight against evil. Before getting into the different movies I would like to do a character introduction:

Emotionless (無情 wu qing) Liu Yifei

Lost the use of her legs after an injury, with the powers of her mind she can levitate objects, use hidden weapons and read peoples mind.
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Cold Blood (冷血) Deng Chao
Was raised with wolves, can transform into a wolf, extreme sense of smell and outstanding martial arts.
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Iron Fist (鐵手) Colin Chou, Expert blacksmith, extremely strong fist and strong martial arts.
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Life Snatcher  追命 (Ronald Cheng) master thief, smart and fast.
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Zhuge Zhenwo (Anthony Wong) Leader of the divine constabulary.
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 Ji Yaohua, (Jiang Yiyan) Works for Department six, intelligent but always somewhere between good and bad.
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THE FOUR 1 (四大名捕1) 2012

Synopsis:
set in the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) during the reign of Emperor Huizong (1100-1126). The “department six” has the responsibility for all criminal investigations in the imperial capital. When a counterfeit coin currency circulates the city, the department six investigates. When they find the suspect and the evidence, The divine constabulary, a secret service, takes both the evidence and the suspect. Department six, and especially Commandant Liu, is angry about it, they can do very little because the divine constabulary is commissioned by the emperor.
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Commandant Liu does not let it go, he lets Cold Blood (Deng Chao) infiltrate the divine constabulary to slowly try and bring it down. The Chief of the divine constabulary is suspicious of his reasons to join the agency, but lets him join anyway. And Cold blood gets into a difficult situation, when he finds himself taken into the family of the divine constabulary, his loyalties become more divided each day he continues on the mission. But will he really choose the divine constabulary’s side? Meanwhile, the real mastermind behind the counterfeit currency is planting spies everywhere, and a plan to destroy to kill the emperor comes closer. Only the four will be able to stop them, if it’s not too late.

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Personal Opinion: The moment I saw the opening shot I already knew this would be great movie, I felt it somehow, and yes I’ve been wrong with opening shots, but not this time. Still the Four is nothing new, it’s actually a wuxia classic, but with a fantasy twist. However the characters have been taken to a somewhat new level; With Cold Blood as a real part wolf convertible, Emotionless as a mind magician (and above that, it’s a female version) and iron fist with bad ass tattoos. Oh and well life snatcher, just like always.
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But the story is somewhat new, the main villain is somewhat original, although his idea of walking corpses had already been used in other the four adaptations. Ooh yeah I forgot to mention, unfortunately this movie has creepy corpses
although… they look quite cute BTS.
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Luckily we won’t see any corpses in part2 and 3, although a half tree human isn’t much better I guess. (spoiler An Shigeng comes back as a tree).

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You know, It wouldn’t surprise me If I would say Emotionless is my fav character of the movie. Just so cool, I think we need to see more of these kind of paranormal powers without the actual light effects. It’s more creepy without them (as if the movie isn’t creepy enough)

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Another thing, I know this is by no means a valid reason, but this movies was great because they are eating steaming food in almost every scene.
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And there is more steaming food in part 2, so why don’t we have a look at that.

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THE FOUR 2 (四大名捕2) 2013

Synopsis:
The second movie begins with the divine constabulary setting up camp in a forest. (a sort of wuxia picnic) Then suddenly Cold blood finds trails of blood, he follows the trail and runs ahead of the others, Life snatcher, Iron hands and Ji Yaohua follow him but when they arrive at the abandoned house they see Cold blood is shot by a cannon. And the man who fired the cannon turns out to be Zhuge Zhengwo…..??? He escapes and the department six and the divine constabulary investigate the house and discover the bloodshed of many people, the only survivor is Ouyang Da. Someone that disappeared from the pugilist world.

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Zhuge Zhengwo is puzzled and wants to investigate the case. And altough the sheriff agrees, Ji Yaohua and  the others in Department Six protest against it because there were several cases of massacres, each with the death of a man that was supposed to have died twelve years ago. And all tied with Zhuge Zhengwo! Connected through the Gang of Twelve, a gang that’s believed to have killed heartless family.

And it gets worse,  if you thought An Shigeng is dead, you couldn’t be more wrong, he’s back as a half tree, half human. His father, Lord An, has him restored in that state. And together they plan to usurp the throne. To plan a spy in department six, they kidnap Ji Yaohua and give her a poison that will require a monthly antidote.

Back at the Divine constabulary, Cold Blood questions Zhuge Zhengwo about the weapon he used to shoot him with, Zhuge admits he has used the weapon before, for it was the very same weapon he was gifted by the Emperor. But he refuses to tell anything about the Gang of Twelve, instead he says he will solve the case in two days. But before that day comes, the Sheriff King is found dead. The evidence is again, pointing to Zhuge Zhengwo.
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When one of the members of the gang of twelve turns up, they find him and Heartless kills him in a fight. They are promptly arrested by Ji Yaohua who has taken over Department Six… Cold Blood, Iron Hands and Life Snatcher are left for a difficult task, breaking into the extremely well guarded prison of the department six.

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Personal Opinion:

Wow, just simply wow because this movie made what in the first movie looked like an adventure classic into a mystery and a real drama, seriously the ending blew me away, unexpected turn of the plot, and I’m saying that while I’ve seen other adaptations of the four.
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But don’t get me wrong there is still a lot of adventure and fantasy epicness, with as sort of a high point; the twin effects. (No I don’t mean that movie with Jackie Chan) But the double effect was really executed very well in this movie. And if you don’t get what I mean why don’t I explain it to you, it turns out there is two Deng Chao’s, t wouldn’t it be nice if there were really two, he could make more movies that way. Anyway, one of them is the fake one, and you might have guessed it; magical transformation skill, something that has been done a lot in movies to make some kind of impossible plot twist. And if I haven’t introduced you to the expert in transformational magic : Liu Yan as Ru Yan (Lady Fog)
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although quite majestic looking, quite a villainous lady, stays on for part 3 also.  With more transformations, I’m afraid the four likes to confuse us quite a bit with all these face changers. And if were talking about villains, the unexpected comeback of  An Shigeng…  well it’s not exactly what I was hoping for and even worse, he also stays on for part 3. Oh and since I told you before, I think I owe you a picture of what a tree human looks like,
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Can’t believe this picture though, you would almost think it’s something really beautiful, the impossible love between a tree and a human. Haha no no, what am I saying ,seriously this movie is not like that.
And probably not that interesting, but here is some sort of clue how they turned him into a tree.

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Well, as my concluding point. The movie has become a dramatical masterpiece (well, almost), mainly because we get to know the truth about the family of Emotionless. And we get to know who killed them, and why.

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Without going too much into that, I’m try to have a spoiler free blog here, but I think at that point the movie got an entire new dimension! I did not see that coming! No no no. I think Liu Yifei’s acting was incredible, and everyone was great in the last scene actually. Just great. Even if you didn’t like part 1, you should give part 2 a try, and maybe even part 3, because wow… Well here it is actually:

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THE FOUR 3 (四大名捕3) 2014

Synopsis:
Emotionless, unable to forgive the past events stays with Jiao Niang (Tang Shui Mun). She even avoids Cold Blood, who had nothing to do with the death of her family. Cold Blood finds himself still entangled with Ji Yaohua, who is as we’ve seen in the previous movie a spy for Lord An.  Ji Yaohua releases Ruyan (Liu Yan) from prison, they both work for Lord An. Meanwhile the emperor (Alec Su) wants to visit his people in the city. Cold Blood And Ji Yaohua accompany him but they are too late, the emperor’s boat explodes. The emperor goes missing and the culprit was not found. The emperor’s uncle, the prince (Lee Chi Hung) is a suspect and is arrested. But it turns out that the emperor is not dead, he escapes to the divine constabulary but is captured by Emotionless. Emotionless is angry, the emperor was responsible for the death of her family, she considers the idea to avenge her parents, but cannot settle on a decision.

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But then a group of assassins attack the Inn, emotionless fights against them but they are too many. Luckily The divine constabulary comes to help. But then they also discover that Emotionless is hiding the emperor. They quickly release the emperor and decide to escort him back to general Di.

While they take great caution,Lord An discovers them. Then they see Ji Yaohua and discover that she betrayed them. Emotionless and the others are able to escape but Zhengwo fights Lord An and looses all his internal energy. Lord an also gives him Jiao Nang’s pendant, meaning that all the ones left at divine constabulary are dead.

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The survivors, Cold Blood, Emotionless, the Emperor and a few escorts find themselves injured, tired, and grieving. But there is still a battle to fight….

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Personal Opinion:
In my opinion the third movie was the absolute best of the whole trilogy, everything that was introduced in the first two movies was taken to more depth. Emotionless had emotion, Cold blood was warm, Life snatcher didn’t snatch and Iron hands had his hands turned soft (at least, for a moment).

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The fantasy style action didn’t disappoint either, with the addition of more explosions than previous movies, and the fast paced and 3d element weaponry, I was wide awake and eating chips faster than normal. And the burst of colourful qi coming of fists, swords and hidden weaponry was right before your eyes, as if it could hit you. Even the villains improved with the bad-ass Lord grandpa that scared me, damn it, with his qi absorbing magic. I’m happy we got rid of that guy eventually.

But I think the most important question that left us all at part 2 was, will Emotionless forgive the people that killed her family? It’s a question that stays throughout the whole movie and it’s what made this movie more interesting and captivating than the previous two. Especially with “the black inside white, white inside black” philosophy going on, yes I do have a thing for philosophy, but only if there are English subs…….

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Was there anything missing in the movie? Well, maybe the only thing I was missing in this movie is Emotionless levitating objects with her mind power, the flying darts out of her hair did compensate a lot but still the first movie had some really cool mind power going. 10 pionts for Zhuge’s fire tornado though, haven’t seen that one before. Also there was that moment when the four and the emperor become one big field of energy, that was awesome wow. You’re really dead when they come flying at you like that.

OOooh, and let’s not forget, Alec Su, a brilliant addition to the cast, seriously, the most unbelievable jet brilliant/comical emperor ever. Seriously can’t believe they made him the emperor, but what a great decision, If there is ever a part 4, I hope we see him again.

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Alec Su as Emperor Huizong of Song

Now as a last point I have to say, without spoiling too much, We don’t see what finally happened to An Shigeng, are they leaving something for a possible part 4? I do hope we get a part 4, but damn it I’m not looking forward to seeing An Shigeng doing his evil stuff again. But I’m worrying for nothing because I have not read any news about a possible part 4 so I’m afraid this will really be the last movie.

Ooh and I just want to say something about Ji Yaohua that I never thought I would say… But yes Ji Yaohua you are amazing, you were great… if you’ve seen part 3 you’ll know why I’m saying this.

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But please, do yourself a favour, marathon the entire trilogy.
Until part 4, hopefully..

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Historical movies from 1000 BC until 1900 AD

Chinese Historical movies from 1000 BC until 1900 AD (have only included the movies after 2000)
In Historical order:

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Sacrifice [2010] 607-581 BC
Based on the play  The Orphan of Zhao, a Chinese play from the Yuan era, written by the thirteenth-century dramatist Ji Junxiang (紀君祥). The movie is directed by Chen Kaige (The Promise), and stars Fan Bing Bing, Huang Xiaoming,

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CAST: 

  • Ge You as Cheng Ying
  • Wang Xueqi as Tu’an Gu
  • Zhang Fengyi as Gongsun Chujiu
  • Huang Xiaoming as Han Jue
  • Fan Bingbing as Lady Zhuang
  • Hai Qing as Cheng Ying’s wife
  • Vincent Zhao as Zhao Shuo

SYNOPSIS:
Set in the Jin state during the Spring and Autumn Period (a state under the Zhou Dynasty). The General Tu’an Gu secretly murders the Duke Of Jin and pushes the blame on the Zhao Family. He massacres the whole Zhao Clan consisting of 300 people Including general Zhan Shou. Zhan Shou’s wife, Lady Zhuang (the duke’s elder sister) sees that her husband died and immediately has to give birth (she was pregnant, bad timing omg). The physician Cheng Ying helps her to give birth. However Han Jue, one of the generals subordinates comes to take the child away.
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Lady Zhuang pleads for her child’s life, until she even takes her own life in exchange for her son’s survival (things are getting intense in this part of the movie). Han Jue, moved by what she did, does as she said and reports to the general that she’s already dead. Meanwhile the physician takes the child away. When the general discovers that Han Jue let the baby escape he gets slashed (that’s why he has the scar on his face).

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But that’s not the happy ending jet, Tu’an Gu issues an order to seal the gates and to gather all newborn babies in the city. Cheng Ying brings the baby Zhao Wu home, but his wife gives the child to the searching soldiers, claiming that Zhao Wu is her son (she has a real son also). But then Cheng Ying lies that the Zhao orphan has been taken out of the city by Gongsun Chujiu, at the place where his real son is hidden. Will they get their son back or will the Zhao orphan survive?

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Personal Opinion:
I avoided this movie for a long time since the title “sacrifice” and some of the posters suggested a very sinister dark movie. But that was very misleading indeed (although it did had some sinister parts), and what’s worse the title is actually  趙氏孤兒 Zhào Shì Gū Ér which means Zhao’s orphan, or “The Orphan of Zhao”.

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If you like movies about revenge, or better said “the perfect revenge” then maybe this is a thing for you. Personally I found it lacked a hero, someone that saved everyone, revenge is such a low moral subject. But then again, this is not a wuxia story about heroes but a play, a piece of theatre it shouldn’t be compared to anything wuxia. It did remind me of  “the banquet” in a good way, except for the fact that this is not a romance story in any way. Because hey, Huang Xiaoming and Fan Bing Bing looked handsome together but no. (save your ship for upcoming White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom).

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Also, the fact that’s based on this very old play, a story that’s been told hundreds of times does make it special. It’s a classic, and I must and will respect that.

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Confucius
[2010] 505-479 BC starring Chow Yun-fat as Confucius

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CAST:

  • Chow Yun-fat as Confuciusor Kong Qui
  • Zhou Xun as Nanzi,
  • Xu Huanshan as Laozi,
  • Yao Lu as Duke Lu Dinggong,
  • Ma Jingwu as Duke Jing of Qi.
  • Bi Yanjun as Duke Ling of Wei
  • Wang Huichun as Li Chu,
  • Li Huan as Kuai Kui,

SYNOPSIS:
The Movie begins with the Philosopher Confucius thinking back about the past. We see him back in his younger years, when he was still serving the Lu State as a Minister for Law. Then one day a servant boy comes hiding in his house, the other servants and slaves were killed for Lord Ji Yiru burial, he was the only one to escape. The Ji Family will want the boy back. But Kong Qiu (confucius) says that the boy will stay here with them.
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At court, Kong Qiu urges to end the ritual burying of servants with their deceased master. Kong Qiu bring the escaped boy to court. He pleads for his life, but Gongshan Niu insists that it was Lord Ji Yiru Pingzi’s dying wish. However says Kong Qiu: the general Gonghan Niu was very close to the Lord and maybe he should accompany him in death as well. The court laughs and the boy gets released.

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Meanwhile at the dukedom of Qi they are dreaming of conquering Lu. Their plan is to suggest an alliance with Lu but then take the Duke of Lu hostage and make Lu submit to Qi. Kong Qiu suspects that they might Launce an attack and tries to get 500 war chariots, but he fails because Gongshan refused to give them the chariots.
The Duke and Kong Qiu go to the alliance meeting and as they feared, the Minister Li threatens Kong Qiu and the Duke of Lu saying that, while pointing at their army, they have no way to leave. But then, Kong Qiu shoots an arrow in the air and says 500 chariots ready to do battle with Qi. They see birds flying from behind the mountains and the Qi army quickly retreats. But it weren’t 500 chariots that scared the army away, it were a hundred ox carts that scared off the Qi army.

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Back home, Confucius becomes Acting Minister of the Interior in the Lu Court. The power in the Kingdom of Lu has devolved to three aristocratic clans, known as ‘The Three Noble Families’:  the Jishi, Shushi and Mengshi clans.” Confucius wants to end their power and suggests to tear down their walls surrounding the three families. However, the tearing down of the walls create chaos, the families rebel against the duke and meanwhile the Qi army is attacking Lu. The Duke of Qi sends girls and horses as a gift in exchange for the  dismissal of Kong Qiu.

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With two horses and a cart Kong Qiu goes into exile. He wonders around the world and visits the Kingdom of Wei briefly. The King offers him to have his own academy, but also says that his soldiers must be trained because Wei is surrounded by enemies on all sides. Kong Qiu says he has little experience in military matters.
At least His royal consort Nanzi must talk to him, he cannot refuse that. They talk and She even wants to become his student. But Kong Qiu suggests she would be better study with one of his disciples from Wei.
She wants to meet him again, but Kong Qiu Leaves Wei knowing Wei will be in chaos soon.
Kong Qiu goes further and wonders around the world with his disciples.

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personal opnion: A highly bibliographical movie is a thing on it’s own. This is not your typical adventure movie (thank god it’s not a typical adventure movie), still with actors like Zhou Xun and Chow Yun-fat it can’t possible be a bad movie, and it wasn’t. The thing I liked is that “Confucius” was shown to be a normal man, someone we can relate to. And Chow Yun-fat was a good Confucius, he has this joyfully peaceful expression that I have never seen with any other actor.

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Little Big Soldier
[2010] 475-221 BC an action-comedy film set in the Warring States period, about a war between the Liang and Wei states. Written and Produced By Jackie Chan. A movie according to JC was stuck in development for 20 years.

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CAST:

  • Jackie Chan as Big Soldier
  • Leehom Wang as Little General
  • Yu Rongguang as Deputy General Yu
  • Ken Lo as Guard Yong
  • Lin Peng as Singer
  • Steve Yoo as Prince Wen

SYNOPSIS:
During The Warring states period, millions of lives perished, chaos everywhere. Ruthless warlords waged battles to satiate their endless aggression. The Battle between Liang and Wei resulted in an endless war and bloodshed. Eventually only two men were left alive. One of them was a foot soldier from Wei (Jackie Chan) that was an expert at playing dead, and the other was a general from Wei (Leehom Wang) that got wounded. The foot soldier decides to take the general captive and take him to the Liang warlord and will be rewarded with a pardon from the army.
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His dream is to retire, have a piece of land, a field of canola flowers and further his family line.
But the longer the journey takes the more complicated and chaotic it becomes. Once the general starts regaining his strength he starts fighting back.
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And then there is a tribal army that likes to make things difficult for them.

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Above that there is the general’s young brother organized a search to find the general.
But the more obstacles the two soldiers encounter the more they find themselves wanting peace, something that has become their highest ideal .  littlebigsoldierjackiechan

Personal Opinion: No doubt the most fun movie on the list, and for once it’s like JC is not really the hero in this movie. But actually he is because he wants peace before anything else which the movie made sure was far more important than being some war hero.
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Still there was quite a bit of action in this movie, but not war battles or anything like that. And this movie is not about war. There are countless war movies (many included on this list) that see war as some sort of entertainment. But not this movie. It had a lot of comedy also which is quite unique for a historical movie. And there is Leehom Wang, the pop-star that was an unexpectedly good sidekick. Overall a good movie, one of JC few ancient movies, but just as good as any of his modern ones.

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A Battle of Wits [2006] 375-369 BC set in the reign of King Lie of Zhou

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CAST:

  • Andy Lau as Ge Li, the Mohist who leads the defence of Liang.
  • Fan Bingbing as Yiyue, a Liang cavalry commander.
  • Wang Zhiwen as the King of Liang
  • Nicky Wu as Zituan, the chief of Liang’s archers.
  • Choi Siwon as Liang Shi, the Prince of Liang.

SYNOPSIS:
During the warring states period, 370 BC. The Zhao State is going to invade the Yan state. On the border of the two states is Liang. The City state is grave danger of being conquered also. A mohist (followers of the philosopher Mozi) called Ge Li comes to the aid of Liang. The king was already considering to surrender but Ge Li warns him for the consequences (slavery). And he also points out that they will not proceed their attack if they fail because the main target is the Yan state. The King is in doubt but puts him in command anyway.
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He wins the first battle with various tricks, they even kill the general. It makes him a hero among the people. He also wins the heart of Yiyue (Fan Bing Bing). She’s a female cavalry commander but Ge Li does not want to accept her feelings.
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But the Zhao army returns to attack, and his method of working made some Liang generals turn against him.
Will Liang be strong enough to keep off the invaders?

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Personal Opinion:
Andy Lau for me was always be the Hong Kong Police action star (infernal affairs is probably to blame for this) , but this movie showed him as an ancient warrior, a strategist. His principles is what made me feel empathy for him, because he would help any country that was in threat of invasion. No matter who the enemy was, or which city he had to defend, he did it to help the people. They even asked him if he would help the enemy if it was at risk of invasion, and he said e definitely would.
His short hair though, almost made me think he was a monk (well he was a mohist), anyway he did a good job.

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Only down side is that I still lie awake thinking about Fan Bing Bing in this movie, especially with that thing about the ending. (am I saying too much)

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The Warring States [2011] ca. 316 BC set in the Warring States period (475-221 BC), loosely based on the rivalry between Sun Bin (d. 316 BC) and Pang Juan (d. 342 BC)

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CAST:

  • Sun Honglei as Sun Bin
  • Jing Tian as Tian Xi
  • Francis Ng as Pang Juan
  • Kim Hee-sun as Pang Fei

SYNOPOSIS
In the Middle of China’s warring states period, around 355 BC. The world is in chaos, wars everywhere, good strategists are precious and rare. Sun Bin (Sun Honglei) is one of the students of Gui Guzi, a famous strategist. Sun Bin is recruited by the Wei army to take the border city.

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Sun Bin ponders about the attack and finally comes up with a brilliant plan using an eclipse. The plan is successful and the Qi army is defeated. The daughter of Jiang Wu, the Qi army general, is impressed by his strategy. Tian Xi (Jing Tian) lets people kidnap him and bring him to her. Sun Bin is terrified at first but when he sees how beautiful and spirited she is he immediately falls in love with her.

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After so much fighting the different kingdoms finally get together to make peace. Sun Bin gets to meet the Wei army general, Pang Juan (Francis Ng) an old friend and also a student from Gui Guzi. Juan’s sister is the princess of Wei (Kim-Hee-seon).

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Pang Juan is stricken with jealously, and wants to wage more wars, he tricks Sun Bin to come to him and tries to uncover his secret strategies. This to o the point that he’s imprisoned and tortured.  The Qin kingdom is in immediate danger and only the Tian Xi can save him.
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Personal Opinion
This movie surprised me, it was brilliant in many ways. It showed both the strategic brilliance of Sun Bin and the madness that every war has at it’s heart. Bitter sweet, both a comedy and a tragedy, beyond my expectation, recommended. I think what moved me most was the interaction between Sun Bin and Tian Xi, there was something adorably childish about them. A touching movie in a lot of ways.

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麦田
Wheat
[2009] 260 BC the story of women left behind when their husbands went to war during the Battle of Changping

CAST:

  • Fan Bingbing as Li
  • Huang Jue as Xia
  • Du Jiayi as Zhe

SYNOPSIS:
In the Zhao state, Lady Li (fan Bing Bing) is married to Lord Ju Cong (Wang Xue Qi). But soon after Lord Ju and the rest of the village men have to fight in the battlefield against Qin. Lady Li and the woman are left alone to tend for themselves and to harvest the wheat.
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Meanwhile in Qin two soldier are sick of fighting the endless war against Zhao, one of them is elite warrior So Xia (Huang Jue) and the other is the easily sacred Zhe (Du Jia Yi). They escape and while being chased they fall from a cliff. They survive and are found by Zhao women from a village nearby. There are no men in the Zhao village because they have all gone out to war (finding men was like finding water in the desert for those women). Instead of telling the truth (that they are Qin soldiers) the two guys decide to say that they are Zhao soldiers and say that Zhao has won the war. Will they be able to fool the women? And what will happen when the Zhao soldiers return, will the Zhao soldiers even return?

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Personal Opinion:
The title of this movie suggests a very unusual movie (or should I say weird). The movie is not really as weird though. It’s just another war movie like most on this list however it differs in a very important way: it has not one single war battle. It’s still a painful movie about the suffering of war but without actually seeing any war battles which makes it very unique.

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The Emperor and the Assassin
[1998] 227 BC based on the assassination attempt by Jing Ke on Qin Shi Huang

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Hero [2002]
227 BC starring Jet Li, set in the 3rd century BC and partly based on the story of Jing Ke

This one of the best movies in the history of film-making, absolutely inexplicably good. However I already reviewed this movie here , but just to hammer it down some more: you must watch it no matter what.

MOVIES SET IN THE Han dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD

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White Vengeance
[2011] 206-202 BC loosely based on the Feast at Hong Gate and events in the Chu–Han Contention

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CAST:

  • Leon Lai as Liu Bang
  • Feng Shaofeng as Xiang Yu
  • Liu Yifei as Consort Yu
  • Zhang Hanyu as Zhang Liang
  • Anthony Wong as Fan Zeng
  • Jordan Chan as Fan Kuai
  • Andy On as Han Xin

SYNOPSIS:
When the Qin Dynasty falls on 206 BC rebels from all parts of the country rose and the world turned into chaos. The two sworn brothers Xiang Yu (Feng Shaofeng) and Liu Bang (Leon Lai) are the leaders of the rebels. They both serve King Huai of Chu, the king decides to make whoever enters Guanzhong first lord of Qin. Xiang Yu trusts Liu Bang and fights against the main Qin army and above that he sends his beloved Yu Ji (Liu Yifei) to him. But Liu Bang is not trustworthy, he takes Yu Ji and invades Guanzhong. Xiang Yu wins the battle but when he discovers that Liu Bang has taken Guanzhong, he’s furious. He plans a banquet at Hong Men to assassinate him. Liu Bang goes to the banquet, his mastermind Zhang Liang (Zhang Hanyu) and Xiang Yu’s mastermind Fan Zeng (Anthony Wong) play a dangerous game of chess. But only one can win the battle, only one that can take the crown.

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Pesonal Opinion:
Good looking actors, enough action to keep me awake, really nothing wrong with it. The only down side was that I already knew everything that would happen in the movie since I’ve read about that piece of history quite a lot. But even then I found it wasn’t too predictable. I did feel myself having trouble choosing sides between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, they both didn’t seem like people I would want to be real friends with (look at what happened to Liu Bang’s friends). But at least Liu Yifei made it very much worth watching , it did make me a little sad T_T… thumbs up, but a bleeding one.

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The Last Supper [2012] 206-202 BC based on events in the Chu–Han Contention

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CAST:

  • Daniel Wu as Xiang Yu
  • Chang Chen as Han Xin
  • Qin Lan as Lü Zhi
  • Sha Yi as Xiao He
  • Nie Yuan as Xiang Zhuang
  • Huo Siyan as Concubine Qi
  • He Dujuan as Consort Yu
  • Tao Zeru as Fan Zeng
  • Li Qi as Xiang Bo

SYNPOSIS:
It begins with the old emperor, Liu Bang,  being sick and having flashbacks. His sickness is also mentally and he’s being paranoid, he things everyone is trying to kill him. We see how Liu Bang was once a normal man, but how he then joined the rebels and the Qin Dynasty finally fell. But Liu Bang was the first to take the capital, and entered the palace. This making Xiang Yu furious, Liu Bang was thus invited to the Feast at Hong Gate to assassinate him. But the assassination fails and Xiang Yu lets him go, he even gave him the Guanzhong area, and made him “king of Han” . But that was his greatest mistake, Liu Bang rebels and defeats Xiang Yu with his army. But even after defeating all his enemies, Liu Bang is in doubt, after many years he distrusts everyone, a sickness that he might not be able to conquer.
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Personal Opinion: This is a very dark, psychological, philosophical sort of movie, just like the cover. And it did not surpass the 2011 White vengeance in any way. The most surprising thing about this movie is that it had not one single fight scene, no instead they had a sort of dancing with sword scene. This movie was apparently not meant to be an adventure movie, it was purely about Liu Bang’s thoughts and actually about how villainous Liu Bang (and his wife) actually was, especially in his last years.

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Red Cliff II

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Red Cliff [2008] winter of AD 208-209 epic war film based on the Battle of Red Cliffs

CAST:

  • Tony Leung as Zhou Yu
  • Takeshi Kaneshiro as Zhuge Liang
  • Lin Chi-ling as Xiaoqiao
  • Zhang Fengyi as Cao Cao
  • Chang Chen as Sun Quan
  • Zhao Wei as Sun Shangxiang
  • Hu Jun as Zhao Yun

Part I
Han Dynasty, 208, chancellor Cao Cao seeks the approval of the emperor to eliminate the southern warlords. The emperor is still young and even though he disagrees with Cao Cao he still lets him go on the campaign.
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The Battle of Changban: Liu Bei’s civilian exodus gets attacked buy Cao’s cavalry. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei fight bravely to defend the escaping civilians. Another warrior Zhao Yun is fighting to get Liu Bei’s entrapped family to safety.
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Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), Liu Bei’s advisor, goes to Jiangdon to try and form an alliance with Sun Quan. The alliance could help to deal with Cao Cao’s invasion. Sun Quan’s viceroy Zhou Yu and his sister Sun Shangxiang try to convince him to agree to the alliance. Finally Sun Quan agrees and the two forces call for a meeting to plan how to defend against Cao Cao.
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Zhuge Liang Suggests to use the bagua formation. Sun Shangxiang leads a cavalry to lure them into the trap.
They win the battle, but Cao Cao proceeds with his main army. Zhuge Liang secretly sends Sun Shangxiang to infiltrate and spy in the enemies camp.

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PART II
Cao Cao’s army is seized with plague and typhoid fever. They send a floating raft with corpses, people that died from the plague, to the camp of his enemies. And therefore the alliance  army gets hit by the plague also. It affects the morale and Liu Bei leaves with his forces. Zhuge Liang stays behind to assist Sun Quan.
Zhuge Liang plans a brilliant strategy to produce 100,000 arrows.

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Meanwhile Cao Cao sends Jiang Gan to persuade Zhou Yu to surrender to Cao. But Zhou does net let himself be persuaded and with a little trick he makes Jiang believe that Cai Mao and Zhang Yun (two important navy officers) are going to kill Cao. Cao Cao falls for the trick and executes Cai Mao and Zhang Yun.
But the battle is only just beginning, Cao Cao has an army of 800,000 ( Zhou Yu estimated 230,000) but the alliance only consisted of approximately 50,000. How are they ever going to win the battle at red cliff?

Personal Opinion:
This movie is one of the best on this list. I’m always cautious about a war epic  since I’m not a big fan of endless slaughter battlefields but this movie had more to offer than that . It’s more about the underdog fighting against the leading forces than anything else. A movie for rebels, and being a rebel it was a movie for myself indeed. And apart from rebel stuff there was this brilliant strategy, and no doubt Zhuge Liang was my absolute favourite character. There was an almost magical aspect about him, he outsmarts everyone and seems to have magical powers to influence wind and rain, and with Takeshi playing it an absolute joy to watch.  The fact that it’s a 2 part movie adds to the awesomeness of this whole red cliff epic, be sure to get yourself the uncut version, you must not miss one single minute.

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The Lost Bladesman [2011] AD 219 a Hong Kong film loosely based on the story of Guan Yu (d. 219) in the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms
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CAST:

  • Donnie Yen as Guan Yu,
  • Jiang Wen as Cao Cao
  • Alex Fong as Liu Bei
  • Chin Siu-ho as Yan Liang
  • Betty Sun as Qilan
  • Andy On as Kong Xiu

SYNOPSIS:
Cao Cao attends Guan Yu’s (Donnie Yen) funeral (Guan Yu died, quite a spoiler).
20 years earlier, Guan Yu gets seperated from his sworn brother Liu Bei. Bevause he had to wait for news of Liu Bei he served Cao Cao for the time being. In the battle of Baima, Guan Yu kills general Yan Liang and ends the siege. Cao Cao suggests to the emperor to promote Guan Yu to a higher rank.

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Guan Yu receives news that Liu Bei is with Yuan Shao.
Liu Bei’s concubine Qilan and his other family are staying with Guan Yu and He quickly negotiates with Cao Cao to release the family and send them to Liu Bei. Cao Cao accepts but lets Qilan remain. He knows that Guan Yu has long had feelings for Qilan but he never reveals it. Cao Cao tries to take advantage of it (to trick him) and puts aphrodisiac in his food, but Guan Yu is able to resist the poison. Guan Yu and Qilan quickly leave Cao Cao.

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But Guan Yu gets attacked on his way, numerous people are trying to kill him. Who is behind it? Will They ever reach Liu Bei safely?

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Personal Opinion: Highly underrated Donnie Yen Movie!! Absolutely spectacular fighting scenes, there was fighting on horseback in a small corridor, smashing walls, Figthing whole armies alone and more good stuff. It has all the action you would want from a Donnie Yen movie.

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And actually there is something about Donnie Yen’s ancient movies that is off the chart (14 blades was very much like this one), always good. Only the romantic storyline felt like it was one big nightmare for Guan Yu and a bit painful for us to watch at least. Good though, very good movie.

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Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon [2008] AD 229 a Hong Kong film about Zhao Yun, loosely based on parts of the novel Romance of Three Kingdoms

CAST:

  • Sammo Hung as Luo Ping’an
  • Vanness Wu as Guan Xing
  • Andy On as Deng Zhi
  • Ti Lung as Guan Yu,
  • Elliot Ngok as Liu Bei
  • Pu Cunxin as Zhuge Liang

SYNOPSIS:  Zhao Zilong (Andy Lau) enlists in the army of Liu Bei. He becomes good friends with Lu Ping’an (Sammo Hung) a soldier from the same home town. Suddenly, Zhuge Liang comes to pay a visit to the army. He suggests they attack Cao Cao’s army at night, during the upcoming storm. They follow his advice and sneak up to the enemies camp. Zhao Zilong has his first victory.

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But later, Liu Bei has to retreat to Phoenix Heights since Cao Cao’s army is too powerful. However, his family gets separated from him during the chaos. Luo was ordered to bring them back safely but he fails. Zhang Fei wants to kill him but Zhao Zilong fights him instead. Liu Bei is impressed with Zhao’s skill and tells them to stop fighting.

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Zhao offers to search for his family. He finds the only surviving family member, Liu Bei’s son, and tries to escape with him. But he gest surrounded by Cao Cao’s men. He fights his way through and almost kills Cao Cao but changes his mind and escapes.

When he returns to Changshan he’s received as a hero, and also wins the heart of a shadow puppet show performer.
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Liu Bei becomes emperor of Shu and Zhao becomes one of the five tiger generals. Alongside him are Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Ma Chao and Huang Zhong. After countless battles they all die except for Zhilong.
When Liu Bei dies also and the new ruler Liu Shan comes to power, Zhang suggest to launch a campaign against Wei and restore the Han Dynasty. He wants to go himself and has Guan Xing and Zhang Bao with him. Luo Ping’an ( also wants to join him and for the sake of their brotherhood he agrees.

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By this time Zhang is 71, it will be his last battle. On the enemy side we have Cao Ying, Cao Cao’s granddaughter. When Zhao encounters the Wei general he finds himself being trapped, a spy is amongst them. How will they defeat the Wei army?

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Personal opinion: Andy Lau proves himself to be quite a historical figure in this, I found this to be his most convincing historical movie so far (I’m really starting to see him as historical guy after both A battle of Wits and this). It had some very meaningful thoughts also. At the beginning of the movie Luo Ping’an gives Zhilong a map, and he tells them that when they make a circle on the map and conquer everything along it the world will finally be in peace. Back at Phoenix Heights Zhilong argues that even though he conquered all the things along the circle on the map, there was still no peace. The movie did make you question the avail of conquering, something other movies fail to mention.
Overall it was enjoyable, and slighly thought provoking (don’t expect too much).

ooh and last but not least. I couldn’t help but finding Maggie Q as Cao Ying amazing as a villain.

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An Empress and the Warriors
[2008] 304 to 439 set in the Yan state during the sixteen kingdoms period (probably :/).
CAST:

  • Donnie Yen as Murong Xuehu
  • Kelly Chen as Yan Fei’er
  • Leon Lai as Duan Lanquan
  • Guo Xiaodong as Yan Huba

SYNOPSIS:
China is divided into a great number of rival kingdoms, and most importantly the state of Zhao and the state of Yan. Zhao is endlessly attacking Yan, a state founded by the Murong tribe (ethnic Xianbei tribe who are a Mongolic people from the time of Tanshihuai). When the King of Yan dies, his daughter, princess Fei’er,

 

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becomes the new ruler. This with the help of general Murong Xuehu (Donnie Yen), someone that has long had feelings for her. Soon after she takes the throne, Yan Huba, a nephew from the king plans to take the throne. He sends men to assassinate the princess, but they fail.

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She’s however badly hurt and becomes unconscious, a herbal doctor named Duan Lanquan helps her to recover. He takes her to his gigantic shelter that he built himself. But the recovery is slow and they slowly fall in love with each other.

But Zhao is still a threat to the country, and Huba is still planning to take the throne.
Will she reclaim the throne, will she leave Duan Lanquan or will she help Murong Xuehu?

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Personal Opinion:
Beautiful movie, everything was balanced, action, romance, they didn’t exaggerate any of it. And if you liked the action choreography, there is a reason why it´s so good: it was by action choreographer Ching Siu-tung (Hero, House of Flying Daggers). I’m sure Donnie Yen was much to be responsible for that also, there is not one movie with him that doesn’t have well executed action scenes, it comes natural with him. And also there is basically not one movie with him that doesn’t have great action (oh well there was that one romance movie).  Kelly Chen was not a bad female lead either, very nice. I think this movie comes very close to a “must see”  one.

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Mulan [2009] ca. AD 386-534 based on the legend of Hua Mulan
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CAST:

  • Zhao Wei as Hua Mulan
  • Chen Kun as Wentai
  • Hu Jun as Mendu
  • Jaycee Chan as Fei Xiaohu

SYNOPISIS:
450 A.D. The Rouran tribes are trying to invade the country. Men from all parts of the country are drafted, the old soldier Hua Hu insists on going to war again. But his daughter, Mulan (Zhao Wei), prevents it by disguising herself as a boy and stealing his armor and weapon. She enters the army in her father’s place.

 

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She undergoes intense military training but thanks to her skills she proves to be courageous. And she has to support of Wentai (Chen Kun), the battalion’s Sub Commander, who becomes a good friend.

房祖名(左)飾演費小虎與花木蘭是好朋友

One day someone loses a jade pendant, a strip search is ordered. Mulan is terrified and admits that she stole the pendant (she didn’t steal it though).

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When she’s put in prison she tells Wentai that’s she actually a woman. He promises to tell no one and when the Rourans attack he releases her from jail. Mulan fights bravely and she’s promoted to sub-commander.

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At the Rouran tribes the prince Mudan murders his father to take the throne.
The Rouran’s fight Mulan’s troops again but they get injured by arrow fire, but then a dust storm appears and everyone on the battlefield looses conciousness. When they wake up Mulan sees Wentai and she orders to retreat back in the canyon.
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But there is no way out, they are trapped in the canyon, Mulan prepares the army to fight to their death. But Wentai (7th Prince of Wei) tries to prevent it by offering himself as a prisoner in exchange for the freedom of Mulan and her troops. Mudan agrees and takes him prisoner.

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Mulan is left alone and has to come up with a way to save Wentai, will she save him? Will they finally defeat the Rouran tribes?
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Personal Opinion:
This a real movie, the real life of a soldier, a woman fighting for her country. And war is nothing romantic, they made that clear in the movie. On the other hand it showed friendship, the friendship between brothers, and between lovers, it was all mixed up in a very good way.
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But I think the Best thing to say about this movie is just to say the last sentence in the movie:
“Someone once said, go too far from home and you will lose your roots. Kill too many people, and you will forget yourself. If you die in battle, your life will sink into the ground like rain and vanish without a trace. If at that time, you fall in love with someone, hope with blossom again from the earth and embrace life passionately. Thank you, Wentai.

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Warriors of Heaven and Earth
[2003] AD 700 an action-adventure film set in Xinjiang

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CAST:

  • Jiang Wen as Lieutenant Li
  • Kiichi Nakai as Emissary Lai Xi
  • Wang Xueqi as Master An
  • Zhao Wei as Wen Zhu

SYNOPSIS:
Set During the Tang Dynasty in the year 700. Lieutenant Li (Jiang Wen) refuses to kill prisoners, he’s therefore expelled and becomes a fugitive. When he travels through the Gobi Desert,  Li is busy searching a caravan to help him bring a Buddhist monk to the capital. But then Lai Xi, a Japanese Emissary, is ordered by the emperor himself to hunt down Li. Alongside him is his daughter

 

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But when Lai Xi discovers that it’s a relic they are protecting, he immediately sees the importance of Li’s mission. He has a change of heart and decides to join him and they agree to fight each other after the mission is finished. Their greatest enemy they face is Master An, the overlord who is hired by he Göktürk Khan. He wants the relic the monk is carrying. Will they defeat Master An and his army? Will they bring the relic back home?

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Zhao Wei being the most awesome actress in the movie.

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Personal Opinion:
I love desert movies (I’m not being sarcastic). It’s the sand the thirst (oh yes I got thirsty from this one) and the adventure (risk of getting cooked by the sun) of the desert that is like no other environment. And there are sandstorms in deserts, and there was one in this movie, but don’t get the idea it was like you may have seen in Flying swords of dragon gate. A note for the girls though, this movie is thirsty in one other aspect, the most handsome guy you’ll see is this movie
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extra points for the very elegant villain though

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I did end up wanting more desert movies, The desert genre seems underrated to some point. But please get some young looking guys in the next movie, talking about that. This movie lacked what next movie had too much (or is that impossible):

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Saving General Yang
[2013] AD 980s a Hong Kong film about the Generals of the Yang Family legends
The sixth son,
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CAST:

  • Adam Cheng as Yang Linggong
  • Xu Fan as She Taijun
  • Ekin Cheng as Yang Yan Ping
  • Yu Bo as Yang Erlang
  • Vic Chou as Yang Sanlang
  • Li Chen as Yang Silang
  • Raymond Lam as Yang Wulang
  • Wu Chun as Yang Yanzhao
  • Fu Xinbo as Yang Yansi
  • Ady An as Princess Chai

SYNOPSIS
Norhtern Song Dynasty, Ad 986.
General Yang Ye (Adam Cheng) is sent out on a mission with Lord Pan Renmei (Leung Kar-yan) to defend the country against from the Khitan army. General Yang is ordered to lead the vanguard, but once the Khitan army arrives Pan retreats leaving General Yang on his own. The general falls in a deadly trap. He’s Stranded and with little prospect, as his only option he seeks refuge in the Twin Wolves Mountain, trying to survive for a little time longer. He’s surrounded and kept as a hostage by the Khitan army as revenge for a past massacre led by Yang Ye. Especially because the father of commander Yeluv Yuan (Shao Bing), was killed by Yang Ye.
When the general’s wife, Saihua (Xu Fan) discovers what happened she consults a prophet, the prophet showed her a piece of paper that contained the words: “Seven depart, only six return.”

When Yang Ye’s son’s hear of Lord Pan’s betrayal, they make a plan to help General Yang. Led by his first son Yang Yan Ping (Ekin Chen) they set out to save their father. They have to face an army of thousands, and find a way to make it home, and bring father back home. Will the prophecy be true, will only six return?

Characters: To break it down a little bit more (so many characters), I’m going to list all the son’s.

Ekin Cheng as Yang Yan Ping – Yang’s first son

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Yu Bo as Yang Erlang – Yang’s second son
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Vic Chou as Yang Sanlang – Yang’s third son
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Li Chen as Yang Silang – Yang’s fourth son
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Raymond Lam as Yang Wulang – Yang’s fifth son

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Wu Chun as Yang Yanzhao – Yang’s sixth son

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Fu Xinbo as Yang Yansi – Yang’s seventh son

And not one of the son’s but equally important: Ady An as Princess Chai
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Personal Opinion: This movie is very high on my favourites list, it’s non-stop action and even though it looks like another war-epic (this list is booming with war epics) it’s actually really about family (I’m not kidding). They fight for their family, brothers that die for each other, fathers that die for their sons, sons that die for their fathers. If you feel like your family needs some bonding, maybe you could watch this movie together. But I haven’t tried it though, so good luck with that.

Make way for the next movie, for the Yang girls!

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Legendary Amazons [2011] AD 1030s about the Genearals of the Yang Family legends

CAST:

  • Richie Jen as Yang Zongbao
  • Cecilia Cheung as Mu Guiying
  • Cheng Pei-pei as She Saihua
  • Liu Xiaoqing as Chai Qingyun
  • Ge Chunyan as Zhou Yunjing
  • Oshima Yukari as Zou Lanxiu
  • Li Jing as Geng Jinhua
  • Jin Qiaoqiao as Dong Yue’e
  • Yang Zitong as Meng Jinbang
  • Kathy Chow as Ma Saiying
  • Yu Na as Huyan Chijin
  • Chen Zihan as Yang Yanqi
  • Liu Dong as Yang Yanying
  • Xiao Mingyu as Yang Wenguang
  • Zhou Xiaofei as Yang Paifeng

SYNOPSIS:
11th Century, during the reign of Song Dynasty Emperor Renzong. The emperor is weak and the government is corrupt, there is constant war at the borders. Western Xia is trying to invade the Song dynasty.
Things get even worse when the last man from the Yang clan, Yang Zongbao, dies in battle after being betrayed by his rival Imperial Tutor Pan. Yang’s wife, Mu Guiying, leads all the Yang clan widdows to battle to continue the legacy of the Yang Clan.

Character breakdown:

Cecilia Cheung as Mu Guiying
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Chen Zihan as Yang Yanqi
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Kathy Chow as Ma Saiying
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Cheng Pei-pei as She Saihua
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Liu Xiaoqing as Chai Qingyun
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Liu Dong as Yang Yanying

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Yu Na as Huyan Chijin
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Personal Opinion: It’s incredible how this movie is like the complete female version of Saving General Yang. And I definitely admit that it’s a brilliant idea to have the widows of the Yang Clan fight the last battle.
Overall it was just a decent movie, it even included a 30 min fight scene which is pretty long for any movie. The only way to make a movie better than both saving general yang and legendary Amazons is to combine the two stories, to have a normal balance in girls and guys.

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The Warlords [2007] AD 1850–1864 set in the Qing Dynasty during the Taiping Rebellion The Empress Dowager 1975 AD 1835-1908 a Hong Kong film about Empress Dowager Cixi Li Lianying:

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CAST:

  • Jet Li as Pang Qingyun
  • Andy Lau as Zhao Erhu
  • Takeshi Kaneshiro as Jiang Wuyang
  • Xu Jinglei as Liansheng

SYNOPSIS:
Qingyun (Jet Li) is the only survivor of his Qing army. His rival general Ho withheld reinforces and let him and his army to die. Thanks to a girl, Liangsheng, he recovers his health. Later, Qingyun travels further he joins a bandit village. The two leaders of the bandits are Wuyang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Erhu (Andy Lau) . He discovers that Liansheng is actually Erhu’s wife. When a Taiping convoy crosses the mountains, Qingyun and the bandits rob them from their supplies. But it’s only for a short while because the Qing army attacks the village and steals the supplies.
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Left with little options they decide to form an army and fight for Qing so they’ll be able to feed their families. The three men Wuyang, Erhu and Qingyun become sworn brothers. The first battle that they fight is a success, and they get promoted quickly. But with every battle, the brothers start growing apart and selfish desires and start growing. Will their brotherly bond survive?
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 Personal Opinion: With a cast like this you would expect it to be incredible. However, I found it was too disturbing and violent, it had little to do with martial arts. Maybe it was the intention to make this a realistic war movie and yeah “war sucks”. Next movie is like the complete opposite:

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(If you’re trying to figure out the cover: I like the Spanish version best)
Fearless
[2006] AD 1868–1910 a biographical film about late Qing Dynasty martial artist Huo Yuanjia

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CAST:

  • Jet Li as Huo Yuanjia
  • Dong Yong as Nong Jinsun
  • Nakamura Shidō II as Anno Tanaka
  • Collin Chou as Huo Endi
  • Betty Sun as Yueci,

SYNOPSIS
Immediately in the beginning we have Huo Yuanjia fighting a British boxer, a Belgian lancer and a Spanish fencer. He wins from all of them. But there is still the Japanese fighter, Anno Tanaka left. Before he begins fighting him we are taken back to the past, to his father Huo Endi that teaches martial arts. Huo Yuanjia is still a small boy and because he has asthma he’s forbidden to learn martial arts.
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One day he sees his father in a match against a martial artist called Zhao. Zhao wins dishonourably and while his father has peace with it, he wants to regain the family honour. He secretly learns martial arts and soon becomes famous in Tianjin. With it comes arrogance and ruthlessness. That even though his father taught him to be strictly against doing any serious physical harm. When a martial artist called Qin Lei comes into town, there is an immediate conflict. Qin Lei injures on of Huo’s followers and because of that he confronts him on his birthday party. He kills Qin but meanwhile Qin’s godson seeks revenge and kills Huo’s mother and Daughter. In total fury Huo kills the godson. But then he learns the truth, that hid was his follower that provoked Qin….
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In total desperation Huo flees and wonders without destination. In complete depression he nearly drowns in the river. Granny Sun finds him and takes him to the village. Her blind daughter Yueci helps him discover. Slowly Huo begins to learn the meaning of kindness and mercy. His last fight is not for personal gain, but to protect the reputation of Chinese martial arts.

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Personal Opinion: This is my favorite Jet Li movie, mostly because this story was based on a real story. And you can feel that. And this is the only movie on this list that teaches us about the value of mercy and kindness. Something that as the movie was making clear is of much greater value than honour or pride. It takes real courage to loose. And it’s not like they want to say martial arts is something evil, in the contrary, they focus on the real art, and it’s an absolute spectacle. This movie was really trying to show us the difference between violence and martial arts, two worlds that are as apart as heaven and hell.

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The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake [2011] AD 1875-1907 a biographical film about revolutionary Qiu Jin

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CAST:

  • Huang Yi as Qiu Jin
  • Kevin Cheng
  • Pat Ha
  • Dennis To as Xu Xilin
  • Anthony Wong
  • Lam Suet
  • Hung Yan-yan

SYNOPSIS
When Qiu Jin (Huang Yi) grows up she resisted to have her feet bound. Instead she learns martial arts, horse riding and literature from her brother and father. She’s also talented in poetry and in her poems she expresses her sorrow about the repression of women. Qiu Jin marries, but she doesn’t let it prevent her from finding and meeting other people that want to join the rebellion. And after having an argument with her husband she decides to go to Japan. In Japan she studies and meets a lot of nationalists that will help her. When she returns to China she becomes Xu Xilin’s lieutenant where she assists with training of the secret revolutionaries at the Datong school . Xu Xilin assassinates the governor,  and soon the government forces will storm the Datong school.

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Personal Opinion: If you have revolutionary blood running through you (I do, I can’t help it), you might as well watch this movie.  Another good thing, I didn’t expect this movie to have any great martial arts, but it did and it was brilliant! And I believe this movie was historically quite accurate, to illustrate here’s a picture of Qiu Jin in real life.
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And here is Qiu Jin (Huang Yi) in the movie
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Amazing right!! It’s historical accuracy and martial arts makes it definitely worthwhile movie.

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Bodyguards and Assassins [2009] AD 1911 a Hong Kong film set in British colonial Hong Kong near the end of the Qing Dynasty. The events in the film led to the Wuchang Uprising

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CAST:

  • Zhang Hanyu as Sun Wen
  • Tony Leung Ka-fai as Chen Shaobai
  • Wang Xueqi as Li Yutang
  • Fan Bingbing as Yueru
  • Wang Po-chieh as Li Chongguang
  • Leon Lai as Liu Yubai
  • Nicholas Tse as Deng Sidi

SYNOPSIS:
1905, Sun Wen (Zhang Hanyu) is planning to go to Hong Kong to discuss revolution plans with his fellow Tongmenghui members. Knowing this could let to an uprising, The Empress Dowager Cixi sends assassins to kill him. Another revolutionary, Chen Shaobai (Tony Leung Ka-fai) arrives in Hong Kong before Sun’s arrival. Chen Shaobai is there to aks Li Yutang, a businessman, fro money. After Liu Yutang’s newspaper agency is closed by the British authorities Li Yutang gives his full support to the revolutionaries. Li rallies bodyguards for Sun Wen when he arrives.

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His bodyguards include Li’s son Li Chongguang (Wang Po-chieh ), highly skilled beggar Liu Yubai (Leon Lai), the rickshaw puller Deng Sidi (Nicholas Tse), Wang Fuming (Megke Bateer) an giant outcast monk with immense strength, the gambling addicted Shen Chongyang (Donnie Yen) that joins the bodyguards because Yueru (Fan Bing Bing) persuaded him, Yan Xiaoguo (Hu Jun) and Highly skilled Fang Hong (Li Yuchun) that joined the bodyguards after her father, Fang Tian, got killed. Will the bodyguards be enough to protect Sun Wen?

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Personal Opinion
: A lot of the characters in the movie are fictional however Sun Wen, Chen Shaobai and Yeung Ku-wan, are based on real historical figures. So this is definitely a historically inspired and its not difficult to imagine this could have happened. But the fictional characters are actually most interesting, like for example Shen Chongyang (Donnie Yen) and Yueru (Fan Bing Bing), heartbreaking at some point. And Deng Sidi (Nicholas Tse), a very innocent character that I’ve never seen from Nicholas Tse before. But more than anything it was the revolutionary spirit that made this movie.

Yes, the revolution is kept alive, with this awesome movie.

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And this was the last historical movie from this list, if there are any good historical movies I’ve missed. Let me know!

REIGN OF ASSASSINS ~ GIFs

Fight scene Reign of Assassins (2010)
For me this scene is everything, it has amazing scenery, colorful lighting (colored warm and cold lights), unusual weaponry (the metal rod), good choreography and more than anything it also tells a meaningful story…
I’ll try to tell the story with GIFs:

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watersheddingsworddrizzle5watersheddingsworddrizzle6 Four strokes of your sword are incomplete”
“so what?”
“I worry that one day you’ll meet a real master and be cut to pieces.”
“Turn around, look at me!”
“I can’t look at you again, in a few more days I will become a monk”
“You’re only telling me now? Then why have you been with me for three months?” 
“After we part today I will recite prayers for you day and night and ask Buddha to forgive you. And to make you awaken and let go. Let go of all the paths to dharma. Let go of all the suffering in the world, and sail across the bitter sea until you reach nirvana.”
“Let go! Can you let go? I will kill everyone in the temple you are joining, the old and the young will all die.” 
“Wait, today I shall sever this karmic bond and sever my ties with you…”  reignofassassins2 reignofassassins3 reignofassassins4

“Hide Weakness in Deftness” 
(first mistake in the Water Shedding Sword)

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“Use both Darkness and Light”
(second mistake in the Water Shedding Sword)

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“Reveal Clarity in Obscurity”
(third mistake in the Water Shedding Sword) 

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“In Surrender become Strong” 

(fourth mistake in the Water Shedding Sword)

“These four moves can beat your Water-Shedding Sword,

you will be killed” 

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“The window of opportunity has arrived If you can put down the sword in your hand and leave this path, I am happy to be the last one you kill…”

Movie Review: The Promise (2005)

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The Promise is based on a Wuxia romance called the The Kunlun Slave, written by Pei Xing at the time of the Tang Dynasty. It tells the story of a slave Kunlun (Jang Dong-gun) and Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung!) that fall in love which each other, but because of misunderstandings, prophecy’s and broken promises general Guangming (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Duke Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse!)  come between them.

The film is directed by Chen Kaige

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Plot: The movie begins with this adorable little girl, Qingcheng, that is starving. She runs about in the forest and steals from soldiers that have just died. Then she’s tricked by a smart boy who captures her. He says he’ll let her go if she accepts to become his slave. She promises him to become his slave but hits him on the head after being released. (an important scene that as everything to do with the title “the promise” )

She runs away and meets a goddess called Manshen. The goddess offers her to enjoy a luxurious life, without having to be a slave, and become the most beautiful woman in the land. However, she can never fall in love or she will lose that person she loves (O_O!!!!!) . She accepts without much hesitation and later we learn she becomes the King’s concubine.

Meanwhile a slave called Kunlun and another hundred or so slaves are summoned by General Guangming. He uses the slave as a distraction to fight the barbarians. Thanks to Kunlun, general Gaungming has a victory and is able fight off all the barbarians. Kunlun is however the only slave to survive, because of his talent Guangming wants him to be his slave. Kunlun happily accepts. On his way to the palace, they get lost and Guangming has an encounter with Manshen, who tells him that someone wearing his Crimson Armour will commit regicide and tarnish his reputation. Guangming doesn’t take her really serious and finds his way out of the forest thanks to Kunlun. Suddenly Guangming encounters an assassin that wants to kill him, but thanks to Kunlun’s amazing running speed however they both survive. Well, the real reason is actually that the assassin recognizes his skill as being that of someone from the “snow land” and because of personal reasons (the assassin is from “the snow land” himself) he lets them go.

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The general is injured after the fight with the assassin and because the king is in danger (Duke Wuhuan plans to kill him), he orders Kunlun to put on his Armour and protect the king. Kunlun does as he orders but once he’s in the palace he kills the king and saves the Qingcheng. (It was a misunderstanding of course, but yeah I would do the same) When they are caught by the Duke Wuhuan he makes a bargain with Kunlun. If he is to jump off the cliff he’ll let her stay alive. Kunlun accepts the bargain (I wouldn’t exactly do that myself, no) and later we see that he survives, which with his incredible speed skill isn’t much of a surprise, but still amazing of course. And this all winning Qingcheng’s heart. However, she doesn’t know it was Kunlun that saved her!!

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The prediction that Mashen told Guangming turned out to be true, will her other prediction (that Qingcheng is to loose every man she falls in love with) also come true? And will Qingcheng discover who the man in the armor that saved her really was?!

To find out, you have to watch it : )

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Duke Wuhuan, middle, (Nicholas Tse) being an excellent therapist here with helping Qingcheng and Kunlun. 😄

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Qingcheng on the roof of the palace (Cecilia Cheung)

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Hiroyuki Sanada as General Guangming

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Personal opinion:

Beautiful scenery, marvelous actors, excellent cinematography, a real fairy tale that goes to the limits of everyone’s imagination! It is tragic, yes of course but we are used to that right?! Who cares about the ending anyway (I’m just bluffing). It was packed with incredible fights and incredible running scenes (Usain bolt is pretty slow compared to our good friend Kunlun) that defy the laws of physics. The main villain was very good also,and yeah, I think a good villain is important in a movie, crucial to raise the suspense level and have someone to fight against which is very useful when you make a wuxia movie. And it’s rather cool to have a villain that fights with an elegant fan and one that cares about doing his hair and stuff. The best thing about the Duke Wuhuan is, apart from the fact that it’s being played by the “off the chart” awesome Nicholas Tse, that we get to learn about his psychological problem. Or in other words, the reason he became a person that can’t be trusted, villainous and evil.

Of course not only the villains are good, Cecilia Cheung is perfect in her role as Qingcheng, she’s as soft and fairy like as one should be in a fairy tale. And Jang Dong-gun is a great Kunlun, extremely intense, energetic but with delicate feelings also. Hiroyuki Sanada isn’t bad either, he plays the good old little bit arrogant general, perfect.

And maybe not as important but wow, the soundtrack is amazing also!

If you want a mini preview movie, here’s a little experiment that I did, I’m afraid it’s in the wrong order though.

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As a last note: I’m aware that the reputation of this movie on the web isn’t spectacularly good, and if you’re talking about unusual things, than yes, this movie has unusual things like gravity defying hairstyles for example:

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But it isn’t bad, it’s just fantasy, very creative. And yes I’m a bit afraid to say this but, it’s a really good movie! And I do recommend it, provided you are not afraid of magical out of this world things!

I know it’s strange to think what I’m about to think but wow I want a sequel.

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Cecilia_Cheung_in_Wu_ji_The_Promise_Wallpaper_2_1280 edit

Movie Review: The House of Flying Daggers

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The house of flying daggers rebel group

Good news for the “romance freaks”, because this is not a wuxia movie that is mainly about fighting. (Even though the fight scene’s are really amazing!!) The complicated love story is really at the heart of the movie.

And it has the stars, Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro. And they perform like I have never seen them before. You will be moved, amazed, touched, and definitely you will fall in love, with this movie.

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Story:

This movie takes place during the decline of the Tang Dyanasty in 859 CE. Rebel groups are everywhere and the greatest of those groups is the house of flying daggers.

Local authorities kill the leader of the group, but the group only becomes stronger from it and quickly have a new leader. two police captains are ordered to kill the new leader. The two captains, Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Liu (Andy Lau), set out to investigate. They find a blind dancer called Mei (Zhang Ziyi), who they suspect of being the daughter of the old leader. They arrest her and lock her up in prison, but instead of letting her stay there they set up a plan. To catch the mastermind behind the house of flying daggers they decide to let her escape with the help of Jin.

Jin pretends to be a lone warrior called wind and helps her escape from prison. They escape together and they travel to the headquarters of the house of flying daggers. However, Jin falls in love with Mei.

Will he finally betray her, or is there more to this story?

I can tell you that there certainly is more to the story, it has an amazing plot that is great to find out, for yourself.

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Personal opinion:

This movie is really one of the most intelligent, plot-twisting and incredible movies I have seen. If you like this genre, you MUST see it!!! Whatever you do, watch this first!
I’m always amused by those movie list that say ” a hundred movies to see before you die” well, this movie actually has to be on that list. And it is on my own “watch list” actually. : )

The beauty of this whole movie is overwhelming, the colors, the music, the fighting, and the really amazing story.
Ziyi Zhang does an amazing job as a blind girl, to play the role she actually lived with a blind girl for two months, that already shows how much dedication and work went into this movie.

Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau are on their best also and as for the director Zhang Yimou, first he made the masterpiece Hero (2002) and then he made the House of Flying Dagger which is really just as good. I take my hat off, or sword out, ehmm… or whatever.

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Mei (Zhang Ziyi) performing the “Echo Dance”

One of the best scenes in the movie is about an amazing game called the “echo game”, or other than a game it’s really more a sort of dance. In a certain part in the movie Liu wants to test Mei’s skills, he knows she cannot see but he decides to test her hearing. They set up an array of drum’s and he throws beans against them. She hits the drums afterwards with her long sleeves. They start of slow but finally close to a thousand beans start flying all over, and yes she knows their exact location. The scene is a combination of music, dancing, martial arts, beautiful setting, amazing costumes and color. This scene has really everything you can ask for and more.

Now, I know this a trick that would be really difficult to pull off in real life, but wow it makes one hell of an amazing movie.

Then we have the martial arts. Let me just say, I never knew you could do so much with bamboo, I know you can make a stick out of bamboo and then hit people with it, but seriously, the way they use bamboo for fighting in this movie, wow!

And of course there are the daggers, which are, like the title suggests, flying all over the place. Hundreds of them flying all over. And in the end of the movie the daggers do play an important role also, the title is present in the whole movie.

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(One of the ways bamboo is being used in the movie: to trap people)

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Jin also known as Wind. (Takeshi Kaneshiro)

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Looks like there is some rivalry going on here : ) 

A note about money, which is boring I know, but this movie had a budget of $12 million and grossed $92,863,945 world wide (according to boxofficemojo), so it was apparently received fairly well.

Another note, about location, because that’s quite interesting. The bamboo scene’s were of course filmed in China but some of the forest scenes were actually filmed in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains, now that’s a pretty interesting location.

To end this let me talk about Anita Mui, because she was originally cast for a role in this movie. She had cancer however and the movie was to be her final role, sadly she died before they started filming,
the movie was eventually in memory of Anita Mui…

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In the north there is a beauty; surpassing the world, she stands alone.
A glance from her will overthrow a city; another glance will overthrow a nation.
One can not know whether it will be a city or a nation that will be overthrown.
But it would be difficult to behold such a beauty again.

Lyrics from the theme in the movie.

Movie review: The Sorcerer and the White Snake

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The Sorcerer And The White Snake.

On a stormy night an abbot and his disciple set out to a normal looking house. But when they open the door they magically enter a landscape of snow and mountains. The disciple comprehensibly ask where the blizzard came from. The abbot answers: “don’t believe everything you see!!” (The fake reality was created by a demon) 

That you don’t have to believe everything you see applies to the whole movie, it is a movie about deception and fake appearances. A subject that I can appreciate, television usually show a world that is more beautiful than the real world, this movie is the complete opposite.

The Sorcerer And The White Snake is also Known as The Legend of the White Snake or Madame White Snake, a Chinese legend, which has been told for a long time and dates back long before any written compilation.
This legend is similar to other legends and folk stories about demons; the story is usually about an ignorant young man that falls in love with a very beautiful girl that’s actually a demon.

The movie has an impressive cast, Jet Li, Huang Shengyi, Raymond Lam, Charlene Choi and Wen Zhang.
And an impressive 200 million dollar budget and I think a lot of money was spend on the special effects because they are very good and overwhelming!

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Plot:

Abbott Fahai (Jet Li) and his loyal disciple Neng Ren (Wen Zhang) roam the world to catch demons. They find a victim of a bat demon and decide to hunt him down. In the meantime an ignorant physician known as Xu Xian (Raymond Lam) is searching for herbs. Suddenly the snake demon, Qingqing (Charlene Choi) , appears. Xu Xian is scared by it and falls into a lake. The other demon that is with Qingqing, Susu Huang (Shengyi), decides to save him. She takes on human form and kisses Xuxian to save him. (Don’t ask me how that works, but apparently it’s something magical that can bring people back to live). After some time, Xu Xian wakes up. Susu is nowehere to be found, Xuxian tells his friends that he was kissed by a beautiful woman, They laugh.

Fahai and Neng Ren are still looking for the bat demon and go into the city. Neng Ren meets Qingqing who has taken on human form also and accompanied her sister Susu to the city. Susu offers Neng Ren to help him search for demons. At the same time, Susu is finds Xu Xian. She forces him to recognize her and after some struggle she succeeds. They spend the night together and Xu Xian falls in love.
Meanwhile Nang Ren finds the bat demon, but he get´s bitten by it. Fahai finally comes to the rescue and is able to destroy it, but it´s too late Nang Ren is slowly turning into a demon himself, although he is luckily able to keep his human qualities. Susu marries Xu Xian, but then Fahai discovers her secret.
Will she be able to keep the secret? And what will happen when Xu Xian discovers it?

I’m not going to say anything about the ending other than that it was the best part, a very emotional and wonderfully tragic scene.

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My own opinion:

This movie was good, really good but sometimes really scary also.
The best that this movie had was the martial arts, it was as good as in any Jet Li movie, it was absolutely not a disappointment in that sense. And Jet Li made the greatest contribution, he did get tired of it because he said that: “After fighting the White Snake, fight the Green Snake. After fighting the Green Snake, then fight the Demon. After fighting this Demon, then fight another Demon. After fighting this Demon, then fight the Water Monster. Everyday on set I was letting out a big sigh”. Poor Jet Li, the life of a martial artist isn’t easy….

And as a said earlier, this movie has some scary and disgusting elements also, this is not a movie to watch while you are eating something, ugghh… (demons tend to be disgusting)
At the positive end of things: It has a lot of captivating elements, things that keep you hooked. Most fascinating is the impossible love between Susu and Xu Xian. And Chinese folktales really go one step further than a classical love tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, it was difficult for Romeo and Juliet to be together but at least they were both human. Love between demons and humans is indeed a very difficult situation, not very likely to have a happy ending but it makes a very interesting story. I have been thinking a lot about this story. I really think that because it’s based on a legend there has to be some more to this story, some valuable lesson. A story that has been passed on for generations must have some truth in it right? It must have something worth repeating…

Key to understanding the story is that the movie begins with the phrase that we don’t have to believe everything we see. This legend is really trying to tell us is that an outer appearance has little meaning; beautiful girls are nothing but a fake outside. But if we would take the concept of “demonic animals” not too literally than for me, this story makes real sense. Because I think what the story is showing is the transition from the demonic animal like human to a loving and caring one. A very strong moment in the movie is when near the end Susu actually shows remorse and is able to acknowledge Buddha and say “Ēmítuófó”. This made me understand the whole story, because it is our love, kindness and subordination to “something greater than ourselves” that makes us differ from animals. And as they keep saying in this movie, don’t believe everything you see, so maybe demons are not animals but just humans that have jet to develop feelings of love, kindness and have jet to acknowledge a greater power than themselves (Buddha, god etc.) .
In that case, to be a demon or human is up to the person, and, maybe a real snake has nothing to do with demons. But yes, maybe animal like humans could indeed just look like snakes from the inside.
I’m not sure if I have understood the real meaning of this legend, but one thing is certain, next time I see a beautiful girl, I’ll be careful not to get killed or something similar to that. I will be just like Jet Li in this picture

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And yes all these girls are demons, and our good abbot isn’t distracted by it. I think any normal non-abbot male human being would have been at least a little distracted.

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Merry christmas!!

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Happy christmas to you too!! ( I really think she hates christmas though)

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I don’t suppose she’s saying: ” I’l tell you a secret: I’m actually a snake… ”

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No smoking!!! 😄

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Another snake….

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04

True Legend (2010)

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“Psstt… Don’t make too much sound while reading this review, otherwise you might wake them up!! ”

True legend is 2010 martial arts movie, choreographed by the famous Yuen woo ping. Starring Xun Zhou (Painted skin, Cloud atlas, New Dragon Gate Inn), Wenzhuo Zhao (Wudang 2012 movie)  and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)

Plot: Su Qi-Er (Wenzhuo Zhao) wants to retire from his life as a general. He was a renowned general from the Qin Dynasty but wants to start a family and set up his own martial arts school. But his dream get’s torn by Yuan Li (Xun Zhou),  his adopted brother and brother-in-law.  Yuan Li wants to take revenge for the death of his father. His father was accidently killed by Su’s father while practicing martial arts. While trying to take revenge, Yuan Li kidnaps Su Qi-er’s son and after a fight Su Qi-er falls into the river. His wife, Zhou Xun, jumps after him into the water and saves his life. A doctor known as Yu heals their injuries. While they stay in Yu’s house on the mountain, Su trains to learn a new martial arts technique. He gets help form the “god of wushu” and the mysterious “Old sage”. He masters  the art of drunken boxing and works without rest, to accomplish his dream of reuniting his family….

This is really a very good movie!!!
Strange thing is that at first I was a little bit disappointed about the storyline. The story looked as if it was only going to be about revenge. But it’s not really the case, it’s more about, how should I put this, the struggle of life? Also, In the end, Su uses his kungfu to save the reputation of Chinese Kungfu. The purpose of his kungfu goes to a new level…

So yes, overall It’s Phenomenal, spectacular, Touching, it has really everything you would want from a kungfu movie! And one of my favorite elements of the movie is the fact that it features the “drunken style kungfu” . And they did it in a really amazing way, almost as good as Jackie’s Drunken master II. A great thing about the drunken style in this movie is that they focus on the “drunken kungfu” as a form of deception. Like colonel Ma said about the drunken style in this movie:
“The drunkenness is fake, the fist is real…” (colonel Ma appears later on in the movie)

The theory behind it is that if you convince your enemy that you’re drunk, he will not take you serious and will not expect that you will attack.
“Martial arts is based on deception, my friend”  and that quote actually comes from the Forbidden Kingdom, my reviews are getting better and better….

I really recommend this movie, it’s a movie that will stay with you for a while.
(Part with spoilers) Do get some tissues if you decide to watch it because I almost cried while watching this movie (almost!!) … oeps!! Am I saying to much already?!!! O_O

Also, if you’re sensitive too very strong martial arts sequences (ughh blood and things like that) then you might want to skip this, you can check out some other review instead : HeroForbidden Kingdom, Tai chi Zero

And as a last note: you might get disappointed if you only watch it for seeing Michelle (I admit, I was disappointed because she was so briefly in the movie). If you want more of Michelle Yeoh then watch the Reign of Assassins instead.

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I should try this when I have trouble waking up in the morning…. 😄

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they brew their own wine you know…
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Yes, this is real. The awesome god of wushu and the old sage like to show off their skills.

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some sort of extremely painful finger grip/strength exercise

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Yes, he gets drunk also…

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The British get beaten up properly: ” drunken style”.

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It looks like he’s telling a very funny joke but no, he’s stealing wine.

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yes, he knows the drunken style also!!! Colonel Ma, Guo Xiaodong