Bleeding Steel (2017)

Take Jackie Chan’s “loving father / brave protector” role from The Foreigner, subtract the tragedy, and add an over-the-top comic-book villain equipped with an airborne science lab and a fierce henchwoman in a Tron suit, and you’ve got Bleeding Steel. It wasn’t amazing, but I enjoyed it.

It was especially fun for me for two reasons, both related to my recent trip to Australia and New Zealand. First, on that trip, I skydived for the first time. There’s a scene (shown on movie posters) of Jackie Chan falling from a plane. Now I know what that feels like. Second, when touring the Sydney Opera House, our group was told that Jackie Chan had been filming stunts for a movie there. When I saw the movie, I recognized the location from having been there myself. Of course, I wasn’t actually on top of the Sydney Opera House, but I was in and around it.

When I told a friend I’d just seen a Jackie Chan movie, she thought I meant The Foreigner. No, not that one. Kung Fu Yoga? No, not that one, either. All three are Jackie Chan movies released in 2017! Now I learn there was a fourth: Namiya. It must have been a busy year for Jackie, not even counting two cartoon voice roles.

The Foreigner (2017)

Jackie Chan is still kicking, punching, and jumping out windows. In this action thriller, he’s a sad dad with special forces training, trying to track down some anonymous bombers. The two main characters, Quan and Hennessey, are enemies, but I would say this is a buddy movie because they are trying to solve the same mystery. The movie is serious and satisfying but has a few funny moments in it.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-foreigner-2017/id1317020207

Update (27 Nov 2017): at Kinokuniya when I was looking for the illustrated Dream of the Red Chamber, I spotted the book the movie was based on:

The Chinaman by Stephen Leather

See below for a plot summary of the movie with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading The Foreigner (2017)

Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

In Kung Fu Yoga, the greatest treasure isn’t gold and jewels. It’s seeing Jackie Chan, playing an archaeologist named—uh—Jackie Chan, do a Bollywood dance number in a movie that pays homage to Indiana Jones. If seeing this legendary 62-year-old Hong Kong action star dancing around in Indian clothes with a big goofy grin on his face doesn’t make you smile, you and I are made of different stuff.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/kung-fu-yoga/id1243570182

That being said, you have to sit through over an hour and a half of astonishingly wooden acting on the part of Jackie’s co-stars, plus far too many scenes with awkward CGI animals, to earn that final dance scene.

Released during the Chinese New Year period, the movie more than earned back its budget despite poor reviews. Ticket sales were weak in India, but strong, or strong enough, in China. Jackie Chan traveled to Singapore to promote the movie, and it did well here compared to others.

I hope Jackie Chan had fun making the movie (in spite of endangering himself during filming for the umpteenth time). I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need money, so he must be making movies because he wants to—or to promote his country’s political goals.

The fight scenes are okay, but the English/Mandarin script and the plot are disappointing. I can’t really recommend it. I can summarize it for you, though.

Keep reading for a catalog of all the unnecessary CGI animals as well as a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

Jackie Chan comes to Plaza Singapura to launch Kung Fu Yoga

When I went to see Railroad Tigers, I saw signs heralding Jackie Chan’s visit to Plaza Singapura, so I made sure I was there. I should have made sure I was there earlier…

Below are the best of the lousy photos I managed to snap amidst the forest of arms. Clearly I was not cut out for the life of the paparazzi. Still, I did get to hear and glimpse one of my favorite movie stars, which is a thing I never really expected would happen—especially because Jackie Chan routinely almost dies.

Continue reading Jackie Chan comes to Plaza Singapura to launch Kung Fu Yoga

Railroad Tigers (2016)

In Railroad Tigers, Jackie Chan’s character is a Chinese villager living under the yoke of the Japanese army during WWII. He is the leader of a secret rebel group, the Flying Tigers. He leads the small, patriotic group on raids to harass and steal from Japanese soldiers stationed on the trains that pass through his village. They aren’t soldiers, though, and although they constantly risk getting caught, they never really accomplish much. What can they do to truly help their country? When a wounded soldier tells them he has failed in his mission to blow up an important bridge nearby, they know what to do… but not how to do it. Will they succeed?

Almost the whole film happens on a train, though there are some scenes in the village as well. I laughed a lot and thoroughly enjoyed it. Those who have disparaging things to say may have found the pro-China and anti-Japanese themes distasteful; or they may dislike silly action movies, since many action movies these days are gritty, dark, or at least largely serious in tone; or perhaps it’s partly just that they’re English speakers who don’t like having to experience jokes via subtitles.

In fact I wish my Mandarin (and my Japanese) were stronger, because then I’d have been able to appreciate the dialog better. Nevertheless, even though I mostly had to rely on the English subtitles to understand the dialog, it was still hilarious. And you don’t need subtitles for the slapstick comedy, anyway; you could get a fair amount of enjoyment from the movie even with the subtitles off—assuming you like slapstick.

In fact, the main reasons I like Jackie Chan’s movies are: (a) they’re silly, and (b) each of his characters is charmingly and effectively protective. Moreover, as other reviewers unfailingly point out, it’s amazing that Jackie Chan is still not just alive but also kicking. Hats off to an amazing and very dedicated lifelong artist!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/railroad-tigers/id1225504120

I’m looking forward to the next Jackie Chan movie already, and I don’t have long to wait: Kung Fu Yoga is being released in Singapore this week.

Wheels on Meals (1984)

In Wheels on Meals, Jackie Chan rides a skateboard to sell food from a cart in a plaza in Barcelona.

The other main characters are the other food cart guy, a private investigator, a mysterious woman, and the guy who kidnaps the woman and fights Jackie Chan at the end.

The fight is considered excellent, but I prefer the ones that are silly, and this one was pretty brutal.

The Wikipedia article about the movie can tell you more about the plot and the production history of the movie.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/wheels-on-meals/id1278562392

Cannonball Run 2 (1984)

The premise of this awkward sequel to The Cannonball Run is that the father of the rich Arab who lost the Cannonball Run wanted his son to win, so he encourages his son to fund another race, putting up a prize of 1 million (which he expects the son to win back). Both father and son wish to bring glory to their family name, which is Falafel (groan).

The way the Japanese team join the race is pretty awesome. Because the team wanted to avoid a two-day customs quarantine of the computerized car, the car is released from the back of a plane that lands on a road near the airport, deploying and then releasing a parachute to slow it down. The driver ignites the car’s rocket, plunges the car into a lake, and calmly drives the car like a submarine.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/cannonball-run-ii/id606620435

The Cannonball Run (1981)

“The most distinguished group of highway scofflaws and degenerates ever gathered together in one place” meet at a bar in Connecticut to kick off an illegal cross-country road race. They then proceed in their various vehicles, overcoming various difficulties, to traverse the continent.

Jackie Chan plays a Japanese character, apparently because someone thought all East Asians look the same. They must also have thought that all East Asian languages sound the same, because Jackie mostly speaks Cantonese in the movie.