WU KONG (2017) review

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Based on a successful internet novel by Jin Hezai, Wu Kong is Derek Kwok’s second stab at the Monkey King myth (after co-directing Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons with Stephen Chow), on which it is supposed to offer a new take – a rather hollow claim given that the countless Monkey King adaptations of recent years have all had completely different narratives from one another. An origin story of sorts, it follows Sun Wukong (Eddie Peng), hungry for revenge after goddess Hua Ji (Faye Yu) had his beloved Mount Huaguo ravaged to punish a revolting demon. The Monkey enters the heavenly kingdom with plans to destroy the destiny astrolabe, a giant machine which preordains the fate of everyone on earth. There, he meets Azi (Ni Ni), daughter of his enemy Hua Ji, and is confronted by two immortals, Erlangshen (Shawn Yue) and Tianpeng (Oho Ou). After their fight takes them to earth, where their powers are ineffective, Wukong, Erlangshen and Tianpeng end up joining forces to help a small village on Mount Huaguo defeat a cloud demon. In the process, Wukong and Azi fall in love, Erlangshen finds a surrogate mother, and Tianpeng is reunited with Yue (Zheng Shuang), a long lost love. But soon, Hua Ji restores discipline with a bloodbath.

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FULL STRIKE (2015) short review

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Derek Kwok and Henry Wong’s Full Strike does for badminton what Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer did to soccer, that it to say power it with an anime sensibility, slather it in cartoonish excess, and inject it with martial arts film tropes. It tells of a disgraced, depressed badminton champion (Josie Ho), who after witnessing a shuttlecock-shaped meteor falling to earth, teams up with her grandmother (Susan Shaw), a trio of ex-cons looking to go clean (Ekin Cheng, Edmond Leung and Wilfred Lau), and their drunk coach (Lam Man Chung), to compete in a big badminton tournament, where her main rival is her cousin (Ronald Cheng). Full Strike has a lovable ensemble of actors : Ekin Cheng is getting more appealing with age, Josie Ho is an oasis of restraint among all the wackiness, Ronald Cheng does some of his best mugging, but Lam Man Chung is the highlight as a drunk, unpredictable coach that is both awesome and pathetic. The humor is zany but doesn’t muffle the trite but reasonably engaging emotional stakes. But the film’s problem is that there’s just not that much one can do with badminton onscreen. The directors struggle to make the matches interesting and spectacular, but in the end it all amounts to repetitive close-ups of CGI shuttlecocks, slow-mo reaction shots and un-involving wide angle views. Still, Full Strike is fun and unassuming entertainment. ***