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2008/2009 - Red Cliff
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Joined: 16 Dec 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:09 pm    Post subject:

FILM REVIEW: And the rest, as they say, is history

By Ho Yi
Friday, Jan 16, 2009, Page 16


DIRECTED BY: John Woo (吳宇森)

STARRING: Tony Leung Chiu-wai (梁朝偉) as Zhou Yu, Takeshi Kaneshiro (金城武) as Zhuge Liang, Zhang Fengyi (張豐毅) as Cao Cao, Chang Chen (張震) as Sun Quan, Lin Chi-ling (林志玲) as Xiao Qiao, Zhao Wei (趙薇) as Sun Shangxiang, Hu Jun (胡軍) as Zhao Yun, Nakamura Shido as Gan Xing

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

LANGUAGE: In Mandarin with English subtitles

TAIWAN RELEASE: Currently showing

Six months after the Asian release of the first segment of his epic diptych, John Woo (吳宇森) returns to the big screen with Red Cliff 2 (赤壁:決戰天下). Featuring moments of high drama, exciting action sequences and an arresting story about brotherhood, bravery and romance, the blockbuster further cements Woo’s triumphal return to Chinese-language cinema after a long hiatus in Hollywood where the director never managed to live up to the promise of his Hong Kong oeuvre.

After a brief recap of what took place in the previous installment, the audience is thrown back into the battlefield action where Cao Cao’s (Zhang Fengyi, 張豐毅) troops play a game of cuju (蹴鞠), an ancient Asian kind of football, as they wait for the battle of Red Cliff to start. In an inconspicuous corner, warlord Sun Quan’s (Chang Chen, 張震) spirited sister Sun Shangxiang (Zhao Wei, 趙薇), disguised as an enemy soldier, sends information about the enemy’s position by carrier pigeon to Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro, 金城武).

The news encourages Sun Quan’s coalition forces, which are formulating plans to defeat Cao Cao’s vastly superior force across the bay. Typhoid has broken out in Cao Cao’s camp, causing heavy casualties. But it doesn’t take long before the shrewd prime minister and strategist turns the disease to his advantage by rafting the infected corpses over to Sun’s camp.

A battle of wits ensues. Zhou Yu (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, 梁朝偉) successfully spreads fear and confusion among the enemy forces by false information. In the meantime, Zhuge Liang draws on his familiarity with the local weather and tactical expertise to steal weapons supplies from Cao Cao’s troops.

As a strong wind blows, both sides ready for a battle to the death. Meanwhile, Zhou Yu’s beautiful wife Xiao Qiao (Lin Chi-ling, 林志玲) ventures into Cao Cao’s camp alone in an attempt to use her diplomatic skills to prevent further carnage.

Needless to say, the good guys win, thus ensuring the survival of Sun Quan and Liu Bei and heralding the beginning of China’s Three Kingdoms period and, ultimately, the reunification of the country under the Jin Dynasty.

It is never easy to tackle a legend that has long been popularized and romanticized in countless textbooks, television series, video games and comic books, not to mention the 120-chapter Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義), one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature (四大名著). Audiences already have their own ideas about the events and characters. But though Red Cliff is not immune to criticism, the screenwriters have successfully condensed the richness of history and legend into an easy-to-follow structure that balances action and drama with Woo-esque romanticism.

Maintaining the fast pace of the first installment of Red Cliff — Parts 1 and 2 are being shown in a single, condensed version outside East Asia — the second installment smoothly shifts between action sequences, battle planning and anecdotes that flesh out the main characters, adding extra layers to what might otherwise have been a cumbersome epic. Everything is packed into a well-scripted narrative that will not overwhelm viewers. Woo defines and develops the characters, especially the two female roles played by China’s Zhao Wei and Taiwan’s Lin Chi-ling, who are accorded significant narrative weight, in contrast to their more decorative function in the first part.

Woo’s interpretation of the legendary figures is unconventional but works well within the director’s focus on loyalty and brotherhood. The vernacular language spoken by Woo’s characters may lack gravitas, but it gives the film a distinct charm and vitality.

The final battle scenes are grandiose, but the denouement is a tad flabby as military pageantry, martial arts sequences and close-ups of the heroes and villains’ grimacing faces grow stale after several reprises.

China’s Zhang Fengyi is the surprise star of the film. More than simply the power-hungry villain as depicted in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, his Cao Cao is an emotionally complex and charismatic leader who blushes before the woman he loves. Tony Leung Chiu-wai is as dependable as ever in his role as the composed Zhou Yu, while Takeshi Kaneshiro engages attention as the slightly effete strategist.

Given more to do this time around than in the first part, supermodel-turned-actress Lin exhibits sufficient gumption to carry off her part as Xiao Qiao. Taiwan’s Chang Chen, however, underwhelms in the supporting role as the indecisive Sun.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:11 pm    Post subject:

The China Post

Updated Thursday, January 15, 2009 9:58 am TWN, AP

Woo says his Chinese epic film is transnational

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- John Woo said yesterday that his first Chinese-language film in 16 years will prove that an epic about the Middle Kingdom can appeal to a worldwide audience. Woo's statement came as he readied an international version of “Red Cliff” for American distributors. It has already been picked up in Europe and South America.

The US$80 million epic, based on an ancient Chinese battle, was split into two installments lasting a combined five hours for Asia. A single movie lasting two hours and 25 minutes has been prepared for audiences elsewhere.

Hong Kong native Woo said he is confident his film will be an international success following the strong Asian box office from the first installment.

“This movie will prove that Chinese historical stories can appeal to an international audience,” Wu said. “European distributors and critics have praised the film as the grandest epic in recent Chinese history.”

The film is a Chinese epic film based on the Battle of Red Cliffs and events during the end of the Han Dynasty and immediately prior to the period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China, about 2,000 years ago.

The first installment of the “Red Cliff” project — released in Asia in July — earned more than US$100 million, including US$50 million in Japan and US$47 million in mainland China.

The second installment will debut in China today and across the rest of Asia later this month.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:18 pm    Post subject:

Shanghai Daily

'Red Cliff' - The end Xu Wei
Created: 2009-1-12
Author:Xu Wei

SIX months ago, Hollywood-based Hong Kong film maker John Woo netted more than 300 million yuan (US$44.12 million) in box office across China for his war epic "Red Cliff."

But this is not the end.

Now the second part of the film is embarking on the big screen, of course, aiming to follow its success in the box office.

It's perhaps Woo's biggest new year wish.

"The success of the first installment of the movie gave me a boost to my confidence," director Woo says. "The second part has more highlights. It certainly won't let you down."

The film adapted from the Chinese classic novel, "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," revolves around the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 AD. The famous military victory witnessed 50,000-strong allied forces of southern warlords Liu Bei and Sun Quan defeating 800,000 troops of the warlord Cao Cao.

The first installment concentrates on the politics, strategies and tension before the war really starts. Yet the second part features many lavish and impressive war scenes, including one in which 2,000 ships are burned.

The two parts of "Red Cliff" has a combined budget of US$80 million.

"In addition to displaying masculinity at war, the movie also takes up delicate subjects of love, friendship, brotherhood and trust," Woo says. "It doesn't lack emotion and comic sparkle."

Scenes depicting traditional Chinese culture is also included in the movie, such as the tea culture, sword dance and cuju (ancient Chinese football) competition.

The cast features award-winning Hong Kong actor Tony Leung (playing Zhou Yu), Taiwanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro (Zhuge Liang), model-actress Lin Chi-ling (Xiao Qiao) and Chinese mainland actor Zhang Fengyi (Cao Cao).

However, compared with the widely known original novel, there are some obvious changes to the storyline. Woo has eliminated the two famous parts ?? the battered-body trick and the Huarong Path ?? in the novel.

The former tells about General Huang Gai's fake surrender to Cao Cao while the latter centers on Guan Yu, whose memory of Cao treating him well during old days helps Cao escape.

Some Chinese movie buffs insist that these changes have stripped the original story of its flavor and wits. Woo explains that the reason he made such changes is to cater to the tastes of Western viewers.

"Since Western audiences are not that familiar with this historical event, I don't want to make the storyline too complicated," Woo says. "You know, watching a foreign-language movie and reading subtitles is very tough for Western viewers."

The international version of "Red Cliff" has already been edited and will be released soon in Europe and North America.

The single movie lasts about two hours and 25 minutes, focusing on the main characters of the story and eliminating peripheral ones.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:26 pm    Post subject:

The Korea Times

01-15-2009 16:59

'Red Cliff 2' Arrives to Delight Its Fans

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

Finally. The second and conclusive part to the epic John Woo movie ``Red Cliff'' has arrived, just in time for the Seollal (Lunar New Year) holiday. Fans who waited half a year for the ultimate battle sequence will not be disappointed.

If Hollywood action draws inspirations from the Trojan War, then Asian cinema's biggest project (80 billion won investment by South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China) can turn to the famous Red Cliff battle, which took place almost two millennia ago and highlights the Chinese historical tome ``Romance of the Three Kingdoms.''

``Red Cliff 2'' is epic in all senses of the word: the hottest stars bring classic history to life, and a grand spectacle of fire and water redefines the art of warfare. It's quite long too. But the minutes fly by as the movie offers more of the martial arts action that embellished the first of the franchise.

Moreover, this blockbuster-to-be relies on more than just jaw dropping visuals as it is ultimately a suspenseful war of wits. It is, furthermore, a poetic love song to the East Asian philosophy of life, that man must live in harmony with Mother Nature and her wondrous workings with earth, water, fire and wind.

The 40-minute combat scene, with flames blazing upon water, inspires awe and caution, reaffirming childhood lessons not to play with fire. It's dangerous even on the movie set, as the fiery project took the life of a stuntman.

The sequel picks up where the first film left off, on the eve of a maritime battle that will determine the fate of three kingdoms. Bitter over an unforeseen defeat to rival states Shu and Wu, Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) of the Wei Kingdom is confident that his million-man fleet will crush the alliance once and for all.

An epidemic and seasickness cripple Cao Cao's men, however, postponing D-day. Gen. Zhou Yu (Tony Leung, ``Lust, Caution'') and strategist Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro, ``House of Flying Daggers'') take the time to demoralize their enemy, and trick Cao Cao into practically giving them 100,000 arrows and even beheading his top generals.

Nevertheless, the allies are still seriously outnumbered and can only increase their chances of winning by attacking with fire. A northwester, however, compromises their plan, as the flames would blow back in their direction. Zhuge Liang, foreseeing an astronomical movement that will change the circumstances, urges the allies to postpone the attack. Meanwhile, Xiao Qiao (Li Chiling), Zhou Yu's beautiful wife whom Cao Cao lusts after, heads to the enemy line with a plan of her own.

Reappearing in the film is Chang Chen (``Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'') as the young emperor of the Yu Kingdom waiting for a face-off with Cao Cao. Chinese sweetheart Zhang Wei also resumes her role as the emperor's tomboy sister and provides comic relief. The director's iconic pigeon, omnipresent even in his Hollywood flicks ``Face/Off'' and ``Mission Impossible,'' also joins the star-studded cast as a little messenger.

Coming to theaters Jan. 22. CGV Theater is offering a special back-to-back screening of ``Red Cliff 1'' and ``2'' Friday in Gangbyeon, Yongsan, Guro and Wangsimni in Seoul as well as in Incheon, Suwon, Busan and Daegu; Saturday at Dongrae and Pohang; and Sunday at Iksan and Changwon.

141 minutes. 15 and over. Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex. In Chinese with Korean subtitles.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:46 am    Post subject:

Bad storyline for old story

(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-01-17 08:19

The new movie Red Cliff betrays historical facts and fails to capture the inner expressions of characters, says an article on the website The following is an excerpt:

The $80-million epic movie Red Cliff, directed by John Woo and studded by top Chinese stars, has earned fat box office revenues and has entertained movie buffs with its amazing visual effects.

With the Spring Festival just days away and the celebratory atmosphere around, the audiences, along with the director and his cast and crew, have jointly participated in the light-minded adaptation of the historic battle.

Probably we're in an era where people refuse to comply with historical facts and details. Movies are nothing but mere source of entertainment for the public in the run-up to the lunar New Year.

Absurdly, Cao Cao's original intention of waging the Battle of Red Cliff in the movie was to seize Xiao Qiao, the wife of Zhou Yu, the chief commander of Sun Quan's army. This bold new storyline has disappointed a majority of the audience, who are familiar with history.

Director John Woo probably tries to mimic the classic Hollywood movie model of heroes plus beauties to cater to the Western taste.

Characters in the movie generally lack true expressions. Instead, they only use facetious lines to trigger laughter from the audience. Such humor can't possibly be a stone that kills two birds - please Western audiences with simplified storylines and interesting topics, while making those in the East accept the adapted story that skews traditional understanding.

Macro war scenes and a bunch of stars can't etch a movie into people's memory without the in-depth depiction of its characters.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:48 am    Post subject:

Red Cliff / Red Cliff 2
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:54 am    Post subject:

'Red Cliff: Part II' opens strong in HK

Posted: Thurs., Jan. 15, 2009, 7:41pm PT

Film fails to match first day takings of 'Part I'


'Red Cliff'

HONG KONG – "Red Cliff: Part II," the second installment of John Woo's period extravaganza, registered a strong opening day gross of HK$1.7 million ($220,000) at the Hong Kong box office.

The film, about an epic battle fought in 3rd century China, is handled in Hong Kong by Edko Films on behalf of Mei Ah Entertainment. The $80 million pan-Asian co-production premiered Thursday on an ultra wide 73 screen release.

The Tony Leung- and Takeshi Kaneshiro-starrer's opening day grosses beat the previous 2009 record of $152,000 taken by Media Asia's much anticipated cop thriller, "Lady Cop and Papa Crook" on New Year's Day.

However, "Cliff: Part II" failed to match the tremendous first day takings of the first "Cliff," which scaled $257,500 on 60 screens in July 2008. The first "Cliff" ended its Hong Kong theatrical run with a cume of $3.13 million.

In China, where the pic was released last week, "Part II" exceeded RMB100 million ($14.6 million) in its five day opening weekend.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:08 pm    Post subject:

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:25 pm    Post subject:

Another RED CLIFF II Review

Posted by Stefan at 7:35am.

It’s been a six month wait for the second and final half to John Woo’s magnum opus Red Cliff, and for those familiar with the classic but have not watched the first installment, the director doesn’t waste time in bringing you up to speed with an excellent summary, so much so that the transitional technique used was carried over to the main movie proper. And for those who complained about the pigeon soaring over the sky overseeing a football game at the Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) camp, there’re perfect explanations for those too.

Yes, just when you think it was frivolous of Woo to have added his signature pigeon shots just for the heck of it, you’ll be more than pleased to know that the feathered friends do serve a valid purpose here, as does the football match which introduces a sub plot which again I suspect will give way in the truncated version meant for Western markets. We continue where we last left off, and get to see Vicky Zhao’s Sun ShangXiang in an expanded role which is crucial to the overall plotting and strategizing of the finale battle, knocking a bit of the shine off the well known characters of Tony Leung’s Zhou Yu and Takeshi Kaneshiro’s Zhuge Liang.

But don’t fret, as there’s still ample and well known episodes where the two men get to show off their cunningness and shrewdness in getting their respective one-ups against their common rival. But alas Zhuge Liang gets to become a clear second fiddle here, since he’s all brains but absolutely no brawn, and get left out of fisticuffs, putting his firm grasp of mother nature to the test, that the elements also play a fair bit of tipping advantage. Fans of the character though will smile at recognizable anecdotes presented that have given rise to Chinese proverbs.

By now, one would already know that Zhou Yu is the primary focus of the show (I think Chow Yun-Fat is regretting), given that he’s a well rounded man blessed with brains and brawn, and a beautiful wife to boot too. He’s honour and duty bound to protect the southern territory of Sun Quan (Zhang Chen), but this becomes something more personal when Xiao Qiao (Lin Chiling) takes it into her own hands to buy the defenders some time by crossing over to Cao Cao and to play the proverbial beauty capable of mesmerizing the prime minister. And her performance in this film was a lot more effective than the last. In fact, the two female characters get meatier roles to play, and for someone like John Woo, I can’t remember the last time where he had strong female characters in his films, so this was a treat.

Somehow, Red Cliff II ended with a whimper unfortunately, which is a pity. The build up is excellent par none, prepping the audience for the big showdown. Those who had lamented the lack of big battle sequences in the first film, well, you can continue to lament as this one only had ONE which takes up almost the last hour. It’s execution, pure and simple, putting into motion what has been planned, and the relentless clockwork that every plan had to follow. While the first film had provided for the famed generals of Liu Bei to each have their individual show pieces to highlight their fighting prowess, this one had none as most of the lead characters got relegated to support status, except for Zhao Yun (Hu Jun) whom John Woo has an affinity for.

Fans of Woo’s style will see his signature stamped in a lot of action sequences here, which were muted somewhat in the first installment. With Zhao Yun and Zhou Yu, one can tell Woo was probably brimming with glee to design the action set pieces for these two warriors, reminiscent of many of his signature brotherhood series, trading guns for swords here. The two trade barbs of camaraderie, and fight alongside each other, feeding off each other’s moves. They battle in parallel, perfectly framed as if in split screen, and I think it’s inevitable to have the hero and villain in a stand-off, with support from everyone else wondering who will make the next move.

And here’s where purists will be up in arms again, because of how the film ended, which went askew from what would have happened, involving both Cao Cao and Guan Yu and that flight of retreat. But I guess if Peter Jackson had some liberties taken, then Woo too should be cut some slack in order to dramatize Red Cliff for the screen. So too would fans of the other characters be upset, because you don’t see much of your idols in action here, which mostly got relegated to plenty of pretty fireballs and raging flames on just much everything, and arrows being the weapon of choice for mass destruction here. Individual, stylized fight scenes no longer are the highlight as per the previous film.

On the whole it’s been a long while since I’d seen an epic of this scale from Chinese cinema, and thank goodness that the rumoured, cringe-worthy lines of dialogue are just that - rumours and nowhere to be found. Come awards time, I’d expect this film to be raking some major accolades. Despite its minute flaws, this is still highly recommended just to complete the saga, and I am more than curious to want to know exactly how these 2 movies will be pared down to a single film for the Western markets.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:27 pm    Post subject:

RED CLIFF 2 Review

Posted by Todd Brown at 9:56am.

[Our thanks go out to regular reader James Marsh - last seen in these parts with his review of Ong Bak 2 - for this review of John Woo’s Red Cliff 2 - the conclusion of Woo’s massive military spectacle.]

After a rather helpful and stylishly executed recap of the events of part one, we are thrown immediately back into the thick of the action, or rather, into the middle of a game of football. Cao Cao’s troops are killing time with a little competitive Cuju as they wait for the real battle of Red Cliff to kick off. While Sun Quan (Chang Chen) and his coalition forces formulate their plan of action across the bay, his sister, the plucky Shang Xiang (Zhao Wei) is seen masquerading as an enemy soldier, intermittently sending updates to Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) via carrier pigeon of the state of the enemy’s superior forces. And the news is encouraging. A typhoid epidemic is sweeping through the camp yielding heavy casualties. While some of the allied generals see this as an opportune moment to strike, noble Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) sees this as a dishonourable tactic. It is not beneath Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) to use this viral outbreak to his advantage and loads his infected dead onto rafts and sends them over to his enemies’ camp. This act of germ warfare has a crippling effect on the already far weaker coalition, and causes a number of the generals to pull their troops out and head for home.

Both sides are drawn into a tactical battle of wits, reluctant to mount a full scale assault while their forces are so ravaged by illness. Cao Cao sends an old student friend of Zhou Yu’s, to persuade him into surrendering. His wife Xiao Qiao (Lin Chi Ling) meanwhile, believes her perfected tea ceremony skills may have diplomatic skills and is prepared to go to unparalleled lengths to prove her point. Zhou Yu is only too aware of Cao Cao’s reputation for wooing his enemies’ wives and has no intention of letting Xiao Qiao out of his sight. Zhuge, meanwhile, applies his tactical expertise and almost godlike understanding of meteorology to not only sap vital ammunition from the Han troops, but also facilitate a devious plot to spread paranoia and distrust through the enemy camp.

To say that John Woo has delivered on the promise of Red Cliff part one is to understate the obvious. This second half is a master class in ratcheting up tension, before unleashing a furious fireball of a finale. The battle sequences are expertly handled, showcasing an epic spectacle, while remembering to hone in on the plethora of individuals Woo has spent the last 4+ hours establishing. Everyone is given their moment in the sun, from Nakamura Shido’s grenade testing to Zhao Wei’s, quite literal, big reveal.

There are moments of exuberant bombast which verge on the ridiculous – a stirring speech by Cao Cao seemingly curing typhoid for one – but fans of John Woo will find many of his usual signature themes and devices in attendance. An abundance of white doves throughout, borderline homoerotic declarations of loyalty, brotherhood and mutual admiration (Takeshi and Tony even get to reprise their guzheng duet) and a climactic five-way standoff that would make Tarantino go weak at the knees.

Zhang Fengyi makes Cao Cao a complex and charismatic villain, more than simply a power-hungry politician whose motives can be easily swept aside. Takeshi Kaneshiro is in his element, wrapping his silken tongue around Zhuge’s poetic musings and meditations, and Tony Leung is dependable as ever as the unflappable Zhou Yu. The real revelation in part two is Lin Chi-Ling, who easily eschews those early fears that she may not be robust enough to carry the part of Xiao Qiao – the trophy wife with a lot more gumption than her mantra of “make tea not war” conveys.

Sadly, Chang Chen is again criminally underused, arguably given even less to do this time round than in part one, but the film’s biggest crime is the sidelining of Hu Jun as Zhao Yun. Admittedly his character is “injured” for much of this second half, but the image of him in battle, baby wrapped tightly to his back in a wonderful homage to Hard Boiled, remains one of Red Cliff’s enduring images. He manages to briefly claw his way on screen during the big finale but it was shame after his iconic role in the preceding film.

The criticisms, however, are far outweighed by the praise. Red Cliff achieves where other recent Chinese epics have failed – less melodramatic than The Warlords, more exciting than Battle of Wits - staging grandiose battle sequences that are coherent and genuinely exciting while simultaneously developing numerous characters beyond simply their job description. John Woo should have his passport confiscated immediately and never be allowed to leave Hong Kong again, Red Cliff is undeniable proof that the man can still rock our world, but really should work from home.

Review by James Marsh
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:31 pm    Post subject:

The Hollywood Reporter - Film Reviews

Film Review: Red Cliff II

By Maggie Lee, January 20, 2009 04:52 ET

Bottom Line: Colossal production turns history into legend by splashing out on spectacle and entertainment.
Related: Film Review: Red Cliff

HONG KONG -- "Red Cliff I," the first part of the screen adaptation of China's famous "Three Kingdoms" warring history, was a hefty build-up that left audiences dangling at the precipice of a legendary naval battle. The multinational production resources utilized for this cinematic recreation are unprecedented in Asia, but it is director John Woo's level-headed ordering of narrative sequence, his skill in devising kinetic live-action to off-set technical ostentation and his vision of how to turn epic into entertainment that propels "Red Cliff II" to a thundering climax.

Part I reaped a whopping $120.7 million-plus from combined boxoffices of 10 Asian territories, with Japan at over $52 million to date. Part II can easily soar on the crest of this success to record highs in Asian theaters.

"Red Cliff II" opens with a brisk recap of Part I, in which prime minister Cao Cao's first campaign to annex the fiefdom of East Wu was thwarted by an allied defensive led by Wu viceroy Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) and Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), the military strategist who serves Cao's opponent Liu Bei. With Cao's 2,000-strong fleet poised to sail down the Yangtze for a second offensive, Zhuge uses his knowledge of weather changes to help Zhou decimate Cao's fleet in one blast.

Even at 141 minutes, the film never feels ponderous or weighed down by self-importance. From the moment the film opens with a Chinese soccer game that whips up a whirlwind sense of movement, Woo keeps the ball rolling with an intriguing lead-up that includes a reconnaissance mission by Wu princess Shangxiang, double agents and double-crosses in both camps and bluffs and counter-bluffs between Zhuge, Zhou and Cao. Tight editing keeps the frequent scene changes under control and the intricate stratagems comprehensible.

A timely lull comes at the 90-minute mark as Zhou's wife Xiaoqiao (Lin Chiling) literally brews up a storm in a teacup in her seduction of Cao. Though the two only sip tea, they generate more erotic vibes than the clumsily shot sex scene between Zhou and Xiaoqiao in Part I.

The climactic battle lives up to popular expectations of epic filmmaking, with over 30 minutes of sophisticated military maneuvers, special effects and human drama in one continuous movement. The wooden galleys are magnificently constructed. Visceral explosions and close-ups of human carnage, combined with a few well-placed panoramic CGI shots of the fire's domino effect on the connected fleet comes close to "Titanic" in achieving a sense of catastrophic grandeur. Visual effects by the Orphanage are convincing in small doses, their painterly texture adding a dreamy air to the hardcore stunts and pyrotechnics.

The maritime spectacle segues smoothly onto land as Wu forces storm Cao's fort. Corey Yuen's action choreography maintains a strong martial arts element that gives the main protagonists some individual play among stampedes of extras. The characters' function is merely emblematic in these scenes, from which Shidou Nakamura's stoic General Gan and Hu Jun's agile Zhao Zilong stand out most in manly prowess. Tony Leung, who lands the most crucial role as commander, goes through the paces with few stirring emotional responses. Takeshi Kaneshiro, blessed with less demanding dialogue than in Part I, charms with Mona Lisa smiles.

Part II gains dramatic weight as Cao Cao steps up as a dominant force and the film's most subtly drawn character. Zhang Fengyi ("Farewell My Concubine") is the film's best casting choice. Zhang's Cao radiates intelligence and is ever so urbane but remains unfathomable behind his composure. He epitomizes the charismatic Machiavellian prince when he boosts morale of his homesick troops with eloquent rhetoric, yet ruthlessly decides he'll let his last soldier die "to put on a show of military might."

Notwithstanding perfunctory laments about the sacrifice of rank-and-file, the whole saga is a glorification of medieval chivalry and individualistic heroism. However, John Woo distinguishes his magnum opus from Hollywood blockbusters by putting his auteur's stamp in the final stand-off between Cao and Zhou, with a pose that references all the classic face-offs in his "hero" films.

Opened: Thursday, Jan. 15 (Hong Kong)
Production: China Film Group, Avex Entertainment, Chengtian Entertainment, CMC Entertainment, Showbox present a Lion Rock production
Cast: Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Lin Chiling, Chang Chen, Vicky Zhao, Hu Jun, Shidou Nakamura
Director: John Woo
Screenwriters: John Woo, Khan Chan, Kuo Cheng, Sheng Heyu
Executive producers: Han Sanping, Masato Matsuura, Wu Kebo, Ryuhei Chiba, Chin-wen Huang, Wootaek Kim, Jeonghun Ryu
Producers: Terence Chang, John Woo
Directors of photography: Lu Yue, Zhang Li
Production, costume designer: Tim Yip
Music: Taro Iwashiro
Editors: Angie Lam, Yang Hongyu, Robert A. Ferretti
Sales: Summit Entertainment
No rating, 141 minutes
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:40 pm    Post subject:

Korean western front-runner at Asian Film Awards

Thursday 22nd January, 03:58 AM JST

HONG KONG — A South Korean western, John Woo’s recent historical epic and a Japanese animation master’s latest movie will be the main contenders at the third Asian Film Awards.

“The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” about a bounty hunter, a bandit and a train robber who vie for a treasure map in 1930s Japanese-occupied Manchuria, is the front-runner, according to the list of nominees released Wednesday.

The Korean action movie bagged eight nominations in 13 categories, including best film and best director for Kim Jee-woon. Song Kang-ho, who won best actor at the 2007 awards, was nominated in that category again. Song’s co-stars, Jung Woo-sung and Lee Byung-hun, were both nominated for best supporting actor.

Also competing for best picture are: Chen Kaige’s profile of the late Chinese opera performer Mei Lanfang, “Forever Enthralled;” famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s “Ponyo on the Cliff;” Woo’s Chinese historical epic “Red Cliff;” the Japan-Netherlands-Hong Kong drama “Tokyo Sonata;” and Indonesia’s “The Rainbow Troops.”

The winners will be chosen by a panel chaired by former Bond girl Michelle Yeoh and announced at a ceremony in Hong Kong on March 23.

Woo and Miyazaki were also nominated for best director. The other nominees are China’s Feng Xiaogang for the romance “If You Are the One,” Japan’s Hirokazu Koreeda for “Still Walking” and Brillante Mendoza for the Philippine movie “Service.”

In the best actor category, Song is competing against China’s Ge You, Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, South Korea’s Ha Jung-woo and Japanese actors Kenichi Matsuyama (“Detroit Metal City“) and Masahiro Motoki.

Kumar was nominated for “Singh is Kinng,” a comedy about an Indian villager who travels to Australia to persuade a fellow villager-turned-gangster to return. Ha was named for the action thriller “The Chaser,” about a serial killer on the run.

Motoki won a nod for “Departures,” a drama about a cellist-turned-undertaker.

Zhao Wei, Zhou Xun and Jiang Wenli—all from China—are in the running for best actress, along with Japan’s Eri Fukatsu and Sayuri Yoshinaga and India’s Deepika Padukone.

Zhao starred in the ghost thriller “Painted Skin,” Zhou played a taxi driver searching for her missing boyfriend in “The Equation of Love and Death” and Padukone appeared in the recently released Bollywood film “Chandni Chowk to China,” about an Indian cook who travels to China.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 22, 2009 4:48 am    Post subject:

The Strait Times

Jan 22, 2009

'Red Cliff' heads nominations

HONG KONG - HONG Kong action supremo John Woo's historical epic 'Red Cliff' on Wednesday scooped nominations for both best film and best director at the Asian Film Awards.
But the two stars of Woo's movie, Hong Kong heart throb Tony Leung and Japanese/Taiwanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro, were overlooked by judges for the third annual Hong Kong-based prize, organisers told reporters.

Woo, who is best known for directing Hollywood blockbuster 'Mission: Impossible II', is hoping to break the hold South Korean filmmakers have on the annual awards.

Last year, 'Secret Sunshine', a tragic movie about death and faith, took home three top prizes including best picture.

With a total of three nominations, Woo faces stiff competition this year from another Korean film 'The Good, the Bad and the Weird' which was nominated in eight categories, the most for any film.

Set in the lawless Manchurian desert during the tumultuous 1930s, the South Korean film received eight nominations including best film, best director, and best actor.

'Forever Enthralled', which stars China's Zhang Ziyi, received three nominations, although the 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' actress missed out on a nomination.

A total of 36 Asian films were selected from hundreds of entries for 13 categories. The awards are organised by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society.

Entries from the Philippines, Taiwan, India, Thailand and Indonesia have also been selected for the awards, organisers said.

The nominations will be judged by a 13-member jury headed by Michelle Yeoh, the Chinese actress who starred in the James Bond movie 'Tomorrow Never Dies'.

The awards will be announced at a ceremony held on March 23. -- AFP
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:00 am    Post subject:

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