HKMDB Daily News

December 27, 2012

The Guillotines (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 2:35 pm

The Guillotines
Xuedizi

(Hong Kong-China)
By MAGGIE LEE

A We Pictures, Media Asia Film (in Hong Kong)/Stella Mega Films, We Pictures (in China)/Well Go USA (in U.S.) release of a We Pictures, Media Asia Film Prod., Stella Mega Films presentation of a We Pictures production, in association with Polyface Entertainment Media Group, Omnijoi, Dingsheng Culture Investment Co., Huaxia Film Distribution Co. (International sales: We Distribution, Hong Kong.) Produced by Jojo Hui Yuet-chun, Andrew Lau, Peter Ho-sun Chan. Executive producers, Peter Lam, Peter Ho-sun Chan, Qin Hong, Tengkuei Yang. Co-producers, Simon Chan, Jing Zhigang, Mei Hong. Co-executive producers, Zhou Li, Yang Zhiguo, Gu Guoqing. Directed by Andrew Lau. Screenplay, Aubrey Lam, Joyce Chan, Jojo Hui Yuet-chun.
With: Huang Xiaoming, Ethan Juan, Shawn Yue, Li Yuchun, Jimmy Wang, Wen Zhang, Boran Jing, King Shih-chieh. (Mandarin dialogue)

Heads won’t roll in “The Guillotines,” an ineptly executed period actioner in which the decapitating blades are hardly ever unsheathed or shown in all their grisly 3D glory. Starting out as a bromance between imperial assassins, this latest effort from Hong Kong helmer-producer Andrew Lau (”Infernal Affairs”) morphs into a heavy-handed allegory on government oppression, but never delivers a cathartic payoff. Producer Peter Ho-sun Chan’s track record helped presell the $18 million blockbuster to major territories, including North America, but the lack of rip-roaring martial arts or even a half-decent storyline will leave genre aficionados feeling short-changed.

Loosely inspired by Ho Meng-hua’s schlocky 1975 actioner “The Flying Guillotine,” the pic was initially conceived by Chan’s We Pictures as a regular 2D project, with Teddy Chen (”Bodyguards and Assassins”) set to direct. But the production was temporarily suspended in April 2011 — reportedly due to script issues, which may explain the stylistic incongruities — and resumed months later with Lau at the helm.

The film takes its name from a squad of assassins assembled by Qing dynasty Emperor Yongzheng to destroy his many enemies, such as the Herders (most of them Han Chinese who resent their Manchu invaders). The Guillotines have been trained by Gong’e (Jimmy Wang) to behead their opponents with a weapon known as xuedizi, as confidently demonstrated in the pic’s strong opening sequence.

Resembling a frisbee with blades, the xuedizi’s manga-like design reps a cool improvement on the model used in the original film and its four spinoffs, and although the 3D images aren’t the sharpest, these weapons do leap dynamically out of the frame, an effect aided by Azrael Chung’s whiplash editing. Alas, these nifty gadgets never see the light of day again as the screenplay strays from its promising genre beginnings.

The Guillotines capture the Herders’ leader, Wolf (Huang Xiaoming, “The Message”), but he manages to escape and even makes off with Gong’e’s daughter, Musen (pop idol Lee Yuchun). Under the wary eyes of Royal Guard captain Haidu (Shawn Yue, “Motorway”), Guillotines head Leng (Ethan Juan) and his five comrades pursue the rebels to their stronghold in Guanwu Town. It transpires, through muddled flashbacks, that Haidu and Leng were handpicked at childhood by Yongzheng to be close aids to his heir, Qianlong (Wen Zhang). Leng’s camaraderie with his squad strains his friendship with Haidu, especially when Qianlong takes the throne and decides to trade his outmoded henchmen for new toys from the West — namely, rifles and cannons.

For more than an hour, an uninvolving war of loyalties plays out, one that suspiciously calls to mind the angst-ridden moles in “Infernal Affairs,” though without that film’s psychological intrigue. There isn’t a single scene highlighting the strength of Leng’s relationships with the other Guillotines, who remain largely faceless, and narrative logic and pacing falter even as a mysterious connection develops among Wolf, Leng and Musen. Sporadic mob violence and military reprisals, shot in a jerky handheld style, are what pass for action in between wordy exchanges, and the 3D technology is never put to particularly vibrant use.

Throughout, the Qing monarchy is none-too-subtly depicted as a corrupt, hierarchical dictatorship prone to ethnic discrimination, censorship and armed suppression of dissidents. Although the final showdown bombastically reinforces the film’s ideology, it also rehashes the spectacle in Peter Chan’s own “The Warlords,” with a distant echo of Roland Joffe’s “The Mission,” to numbing effect.

Perfs from the hot young cast are limp, and veterans like Wang (who starred in a 1976 spinoff, “Master of the Flying Guillotine”) and King Shih-chieh (”The Fourth Portrait”) aren’t given meaty enough roles. Huang has a hard time reconciling his character’s inconsistency as Wolf abuses Musen horrifically one moment, then channels Jesus and Gandhi with “equality for all” peace slogans. Saddled with a one-dimensional role and few opportunities for derring-do, Juan is a pale shadow of the manly Chen Kuan-tai, who originated the role in the 1975 pic.

Lau Sai-wan’s production design conjures the squalor of a dusty border town (shot mostly in Taiyuan, North China), and d.p. Edmund Fung’s sandy color palette lends the protags a soiled, shabby look despite the highly stylized lensing. Other tech credits are serviceable.

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen, HD), Edmund Fung; editor, Azrael Chung; music, Chan Kwong-wing; production designer, Lau Sai-wan; costume designer, Dora Ng; sound (Dolby Atmos/Dolby 7.1/Dolby 5.1), Kinson Tsang; visual effects supervisor, Victor Wong; visual effects, Nova VFX, Vision Globale, Cubic Pictures; action director, Lee Tat-chiu; assistant director, Fei Wong. Reviewed at Ocean Theater, Kowloon, Dec., 20, 2012. Running time: 112 MIN.
Variety

December 20, 2012

The Guillotines (Hollywood Reporter review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 1:48 pm

The Guillotines

12/20/2012 by Elizabeth Kerr

The Bottom Line
An occasionally thematically scattershot wuxia actioner that will appeal to fans of the genre.

Director Andrew Lau’s sprawling epic is finally hitting screens.

The long-gestating The Guillotines, the love child of Hong Kong action maestro Andrew Lau and relatively adventurous producer-director Peter Chan, is finally hitting screens, not so much with a glorious bang but something of a thud. At one time rumored to be a straight-up remake of the Shaw Brothers classic, Flying Guillotine, this film pivots on a crew of assassins whose weapon of choice is the titular blade—something of a cross between buzz saw and Xena’s chakram that attaches to the neck and with the pull of a wire, decapitates the wearer. The Guillotines isn’t explicitly violent but it has a grim, nasty overtone that presses down on the familiar narrative as it builds slowly to the inevitable. It’s been a while since we were treated to a good old-fashioned drawing and quartering.

Already sold to parts of Europe, the UK, North America and Australia, any territories that are left could be swayed by the considerable talent behind the title, and Asian distributors should come calling if they haven’t already on the strength of the young, rising stars in the cast. The bizarre marriage of criticism and praise should make the film a hit in China, and an extended life on DVD and download for Asiaphiles is a safe bet. The 3D is adequate and could look better on BluRay on a big television.

The film begins with a kinetic, blistering action sequence that shows off what the legendary Qing Dynasty death squad was all about. Tasked by the Emperor to put down any dissenters with the fabled blade, The Guillotines are led by Leng (Ethan Juan, Monga, rather on the bland side), a typically soulful, reticent assassin with a tortured past. Leng and his crew are on the hunt for Wolf (Huang Xiaoming, The Banquet), a Han Chinese rebel with a quasi-militia called The Herders, all of whom have taken issue with the Manchurian rulers’ heavy handed reign of terror. The Guillotines find him but decide to use him as a bargaining chip for their own power play, but of course while they’re discussing some minor detail, Wolf manages to stage an escape and run off with a hostage, Guillotine Musen (Li Yuchun, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate).

That’s the basic infrastructure that sets up Lau’s sprawling, occasionally disjointed epic. Underneath the plot machinations that at different moments recall The Wild Bunch (a vanishing way of life), The Seven Samurai (a town under siege) and Lau’s own Infernal Affairs (young boys trained by the same organization to work on opposite side of the law) among others there’s some contemplation of social justice and the impact of obsolescence on one’s identifying purpose. And what a mixed bag of images Lau’s thrown up on the screen—choices that are either simply confused or calculated ambiguities to ensure the film works outside of Hong Kong. Wolf in particular is perplexing: with his tangle of wild tresses and chin-centric facial hair he could be a charismatic cult leader, a classic marital arts master or Jesus. Take your pick. Wolf’s message of respect and peace has something of two-sided aspect as well. Given Mainland China’s recent change in government, Lau and Chan have made a fairly bold statement about the power of egalitarian rule. But Wolf’s rural compound populated by (clearly) socially superior Han is hilariously idyllic; everyone just wants to sing, say hi to the neighbors and cook. If ever there was a mixed message this is it.

As if that weren’t enough to cram into one film, the Guillotines final mission is handed an Imperial envoy, Haidu (Shawn Yue, Love in the Buff), who is also a childhood friend of Leng’s. Little does Leng know, Haidu is there to help the new emperor, Qianlong, make the smooth transition to more Western style military tactics, and that means erasing the black stain on history that is the Guillotines. Screenwriters Joyce Chan (a co-writer on Bodyguards and Assassins) and Aubrey Lam (Wu Xia) tread some well-worn ground in this area and never veer from that path. The requisite arguments over brotherhood and loyalty—among the Guillotines as well as between Haidu and Leng—are all present and accounted for, though when Yue is finally allowed to let Haidu go full-on maniac he seems to be having more fun than at any other point in the film.

Technically, The Guillotines falls flat in spots. The 3D flirts with gimmickry in the fight scenes and is almost unnoticeable in all the others. On top of that the glasses (at least the ones provided at the Hong Kong screening) made the picture extra dark—darker than expected—and obscured Fung Yuen-man’s wide-open vistas and color saturated battles. With Life of Pi still fresh in viewers’ minds, filmmakers are going to have to seriously up their games if indeed 3D is going to be come a standard of any kind, even for just genre films.

Producer: Peter Chan, Hui Yuet-chan

Director: Andrew Lau

Cast: Shawn Yue, Huang Xiaoming, Ethan Juan, Li Yuchun, Jing Boran,

Screenwriter: Aubrey Lam, Joyce Chan

Executive producer: Peter Chan, Peter Lam

Director of Photography: Fung Yuen-man

Production Designer: Kenneth Mak

Music: Kwong Wing-chan

Costume designer:Dora Ng

Editor: Chung Wai-chiu

No rating: 112 minutes
THR

May 22, 2012

May 22, 2012 [HKMDB Daily News]

CF: ”The Guillotines” Set to Hit Theaters on December 20

Set in the period of the Qing Emperor Qianlong, the film revolves around a secretive organization called The Guillotines which is composed of young martial arts masters who carry out the government’s orders to kill those who go against the government’s ruling.

Well Go USA has acquired the rights for North America (Sina)

CF: Backup Packages Bona’s ‘Lady’

Backup Films, the expanding financial-packaging division of Paris-based Backup Media Group, is negotiating an addition to its burgeoning roster of French-Chinese co-productions: “The Lady in the Portrait,” starring Fan Bingbing.

CF: Character Posters Revealed for “The Four”

“The Four”, adapted from Wen Ruian’s classic novel, is tagged as a supernatural wuxia film, a new area for this genre.

Collin Chou

Anthony Wong

Ronald Cheng

Deng Chao

Jiang Yiyan

Liu Yifei

Wu Xiubo (Sina)

CF: Final Poster Released for “37″

Final poster of the movie “37″ was released. Starring Liu Xiaoqing and Charlie Young, it will feature Liu as a middle-aged local woman while Young as a white collar that comes to the prairie with her daughter.

Charlie Young and “Olympic girl” Lin Miaoke

Lin Miaoke

Liu Xiaoqing (Sina)

CF: Official Poster of “Double Trouble” Unveiled

Jaycee Chan portrays a Taiwanese security guard, while Xia Yu plays a security guard visiting from China. The two men, along with a tour guide portrayed by Chen Handian, get into trouble following a burglary at the Imperial Palace.

More posters featuring Jaycee, Jessica C and Shoko

(Sina)

Poster for “Passion Island” (”Rei Ai Do”) starring Simon Yam, Joan Chen, Francis Ng, Song Jia, Chang Chen, and Janice Man in a trio of tales about love. Opens June 1.

Janice Man, Chang Chen

Joan Chen, Simon Yam

Francis Ng, Song Jia

Janice Man, Chang Chen (Sina)2

“Passion Island” trailer

Final poster for Pang Ho-Cheung’s “Lacuna”, co-directed by Derek Tsang and Jimmy Wan Chi-Man.

Shawn Yue and Zhang Jingchu try to unravel what happened after one drunken night. Opens June 1, Children’s Day.

Kiss the frog, Shawn!

Now, it’s Zhang Jingchu’s turn (Sina)23

Teaser trailer

Three years after filming, David Stern and the NBA has authorized promotional activities for ”Amazing” the basketball-themed movie for a summer release. The film includes NBA stars Dwight Howard, Scottie Pippen and Carmelo Anthony as well as Huang Yi, Stephen Fung, Huang Xiaoming and Amber Kuo.

Dwight Howard, Huang Xiaoming

Dwight Howard

2010: Yep, it’s been that long. (Sina)2

Lead actors Huang Yi and Geng Le along with foreign cast members attended the event.

FBA: China’s Wanda to pay $2.6bn for AMC

CF: Chinese Firm’s Deal to Buy AMC May Spur Others

CF: Microfilms will be coming shortly to a screen near you

CF: Poster of Jackie Chan’s Film “CZ12″ Released in Cannes

CF: Jackie Chan Lands his Last Punch as an Action Star

CF: Jackie Chan Retiring From Action Movies with “CZ 12″

CNA: Jackie Chan not retiring, but “Chinese Zodiac” to be his last big action film

MSN: Edison Chen in scuffle with the paparazzi

MSN: Aaron Kwok’s girlfriend, Lynn Hung, vows to talk less about their relationship

MSN: Kelly Chen wants to be in-laws with Andy Lau

SGYahoo: Lau Ding Sing claims Him Law had posed for him

Lau had also mentioned actor William Chen, whose name was not among those in the list, to be ‘young, smooth, cute and sweet’ and had modeled for him several years ago.

Chen’s agency EEG also released a press statement that Chen and Lau did not know each other and would be pursuing legal action against Lau, for false information.

Many Hong Kong artists were shocked to hear that musician Lee Ming Ho was involved with the rape case of an actress recently.

November 3, 2011

November 3, 2011 [HKMDB Daily News]

FBA: Emperor backs Lo mystery starring Nicholas Tse

Emperor Motion Pictures from Hong Kong and China’s Le Vision Pictures are to co-produce the next film by acclaimed Hong Kong director Lo Chi-leung.

The $12 million film is an untitled murder-mystery produced by veteran producer-director Derek Yee.

THR:Hong Kong Star Nicholas Tse Boards Period Pic

FBA: 11 Flowers review

Involving snapshot of childhood set near the end of the Cultural Revolution.

FBA: Well Go acquires Seediq Bale

CRI: ’Flying Guillotines’ Team Meets the Media

Besides the previously announced actors Huang Xiaoming and Ethan Ruan, the director also presented Shawn Yue, Jing Boran, Zhou Yiwei, Pu Bajia and Li Yuchun.

(Sina-gallery)2

CF: ”The Sword Identity” Premieres on the Mainland

The film “The Sword Identity” tells the legendary story of a sabre coming out from a military camp, wanders from place to place, making ripples on the world of martial arts, before finally being recognized by orthodox denomination of martial arts .

The Patrick Leung-Corey Yuen martial arts-action film “Great Wudang” held a press conference in Hubei yesterday. The cast includes Vincent Zhao (Chiu Man-Cheuk), Louis Fan, Yang Mi and Dennis To (To Yuhang) and Xu Jiao. A summer 2012 release is planned.

Vincent Zhao

Yang Mi

Dennis To

Louis Fan

Vincent Zhao, Yang Mi

Yang Mi

(Sina-gallery)

Korean editon of poster for “West Wind” - from Charlie Young’s weibo

Gigi Leung in Xu Jinglei’s “Dear Enemy”

Producer Raymond Wong sees Karena Ng (Wu Qianyu) as a younger version of Charlie Young and hopes that she will develop into the next AngelaBaby.

Karena Ng - Magic to Win

Vincent Kok and Paw Hee-Ching guest in Wilson Yip’s “Magic to Win”

Paw Hee-Ching

Vincent Kok - volleyball coach

“Magic to Win” cast includes Loletta Lee and Yip Sai-Wing

Loretta Lee (Lee Lai-Chun ) and Yip Sai-Wing appear as husband and wife

(Sina) 234

As 2011 draws to a close, celebrities have made this the year of the showbiz wedding.

In terms of sumptuousness, [Coco] Lee and Rockowitz’s nuptials lead the field, with two days of celebrations that reportedly cost NT$600 million [US$19M]. The wedding was rated by the press as the most expensive to be held in Hong Kong.

Entertainment was provided by Grammy-winning musicians Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys and Ne-Yo, while the Shaw Brothers Film Studio, which, according to the Liberty Times, is normally not allowed to be rented out for private use, was turned into a playground for the rich and powerful.

MSN: Cammi Xie speaks up on romance with Edison Chen

The model’s relationship with singer Edison Chen was exposed after photos of the pair were leaked online

“I didn’t have sex with him! I’m only 16,” Cammi shouted.

CNA: Edison Chen admits to dating 16-year-old schoolgirl amidst new scandal

Even if the pair did have relations, Chen is in the clear as the legal age of sexual consent in Hong Kong is 16.

The 31-year-old actor said he only started seeing Tse after he broke up with girlfriend Vincy Yeung, whom he had dated since Yeung was 17.

In response to questions about whether there were even more salacious photos in her phone, Tse said, “No, the sexiest ones have already surfaced.”

November 1, 2011

November 1, 2011 [HKMDB Daily News]

FBA: Village Roadshow Asia announces first titles

ZHANG Ziyi-starring My Lucky Star and Stephen CHOW-directed Journey To The West have been unveiled as the first two films to emerge from the new Village Roadshow Entertainment Group Asia company.

CRI: Xu Jinglei’s ‘Dear Enemy’ Eyes New Year Season

The inspiration behind “Dear Enemy” comes from Xu’s discontent with her previous piece “Go Lala Go!”, after she decided that she could do better in the genre of workplace romance…In order to ensure the quality of the film, Xu has cut out half of the commercials.

CF: Production on Chopstick Brothers’ New Project Wraps Up

The Chopstick Brothers, including Wang Taili and Xiao Yang, are an up-and-coming duo in the filmmaking industry. Normally, they fully participate in their films by writing scripts, directing, singing and acting by themselves. Their first musical flick “Memoirs of Male Geisha” launched online in 2007, caused a great sensation among netizens and made a name for the duo.

CF: Fan Bingbing Shows her Strong Side in her First Micro Film

CF: ’Lost in Panic Cruise’ Released New Promotional Posters

The company behind the movie, “Lost in Panic Cruise”, starring Alec Su and Yang Kun, recently released new promotional materials including posters that feature the depths of space. The blockbuster ‘Lost in Panic Cruise’ has already made 10 million yuan since its opening on October the 27th.

CF: New Trailer of “A Big Deal” Released

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg all made guest appearances

(Sina)

CF: Jin Sha to Star in “Lemon”

In reference to her involvement in the movie, Jin revealed that she is very excited, as she likes the director’s previous works, such as “Red River” and “The Road” which were considered arthouse films.

Poster for “Cold Steel”, opening Dec. 2

Tony Leung Ka-Fai costars with Song Jia, Peter Ho, Mickey He (Sina)

Raymond Yip’s “Blood Stained Shoes” opens early next year. The horror-thriller features Ruby Lin, Mo Xiaoqi (Monica Mok) and Kara Hui.

(Sina)

More posters for “Starry Starry Night” featuring Xu Jiao and Lin Huimin

(Sina)

Huang Xiaoming is described as looking like a werewolf in these stills for Andrew Lau’s “The Guillotines”.

He plays a mad man.

Huang Xiaoming

(Sina)

Sun Honglei and Duan Yihong play rivals for the heart of Li Bingbing in “Yes, I Do”

Sun Honglei, Duan Yihong

June 20, 2011

June 20, 2011

CRI: Guy Pearce Promotes New Film in China

Guy Pearce comes to China to promote the film, “33 Postcards” starring this veteran actor and Chinese newcomer, Zhu Lin.

Variety: 33 Postcards review

Director: Mao’s Omega watch not product placement

“Beginning of the Great Revival” does not feature any other brands, but American carmaker Cadillac is an official sponsor.

CRI: Film 7 New Media Project Announced in Shanghai

The films will be shot in digital and broadcast on new media platform such as the Internet and mobile phone.

“Return Ticket” is the second film of Teng, who is a veteran director of commercials in east China’s Taiwan province. :D

Han Jie has won the Golden Goblet award for directing, for his surreal drama “Mr. Tree” at the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival.

Jiang Yiyan, Huang Bo

(Xinhua)(Sina-gallery)2

Wang mentioned that despite his work as an award-winning director, tabloids seemed to focus lately on his recent marriage to young actress Zhang Yuqi, the female lead in his latest film “Bai Lu Yuan” (”White Deer Plain”).

The film, adapted from a famous novel of the same name by Chen Zhongshi, is in the post-editing phase. Wang said he was reluctant to cut the four-hour film as he had been talking to his producer to determine a better way to release the movie.

FBA: Guillotines to fly again with new director

We Pictures says the film is not a remake of the 1975 cult classic and that it changed the title from The Flying Guillotines in order to distance the new picture from the old.

Joan Chen is attached in the role of Mrs Young, BD Wong attached to the role of Mr Young, Margaret Cho attached to the role of Ms Lee, and Glee star Harry Shum Jr. attached to the role of Chaz.

Two new Coming Back posters featuring tools of crime in the comedy mystery starring Simon Yam

(Sina)

Latest posters for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Li Bingbing

Jeon Ji-Hyun

Vivian Wu

Jiang Wu (21cn)

Latest Treasure Inn stills feature Charlene Choi and Nicholas Tse

Charlene Choi, Nicholas Tse

(Sina-gallery)

CRI: Singer Karen Mok to Wed in Oct with First BF

Karen Mok announced she will get married in October when she accepted the award for best female singer at the 22nd Golden Melody Awards ceremony in Taipei on Saturday night.

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