Thursday, 25 October 2007

Eastern Promise (or Mental Oriental!)

In my never ending journey through the mediocrity that is life, there are moments that make putting up with all the bullpoop worth it. Yesterday was one of those days! I have two examples of why the east is still the top dog in terms of quality action!

The first is a new Hong Kong Martial Arts flick called Dragon Tiger Gate. As far as I know, it's based on a Korean Manga comic series (will try to get details later). It stars the enigmatic Donnie Yen as the henchman turned hero Dragon Wong.

As a fan of Martial Arts movies, I am a relative newcomer to the work of Donnie Yen. I've seen him in a couple of films where he stared alongside either Jackie Chan (Shanghi Kights) or Jet Li (Hero), and I also saw him in Seven Swords. From what I'd seen of him in action, I was very impressed! From that point onward, I knew that I wanted to see more of him in action!

Now I want to stress that it was mere coincidence that I got this particular movie. I saw it advertised in the Manga, Anime and Eastern Cinema Magazine called Neo (UK based). All I know, is that it had Donnie Yen on the cover, and it looked VERY cool.

I planned to get it as soon as it came out, but the time the release date came around, the DVD was nowhere to be seen at my local HMV. I realised I would probably have to go all the way into Central London and brave many a bemused sales assistant just to get hold of a copy. The other option I had (which I have frequently found myself resorting to) is ordering it on Ebay from a UK based seller for cheaper than retail (HA! Take that rip-off Britain!).

I was planning to watch it with my Mum and bro on the weekend, but impatience got the better of me and I decided to watch it yesterday (24th Oct). There was always a chance that the movie wouldn't have been very good, but fortunately for me it WAS!! The three main characters kicked ass, the villain kicked ass, the special effects kicked ass, pretty much everything kicked ass! (Did I say "ass" a little too much?)

It's probably unlikely, but if they make a sequel, I will totally buy it, and I suggest any Martial Arts fans to watch the current one as well!





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The second is the latest in the long line of Mobile Suit Gundam spin-offs. The show's called Gundam 00 (that's pronounced double O), and it's only just started in Japan.

I must admit when I first watched this show's predecessor, Gundam Seed, I was slightly underwhelmed. It just didn't have the same kind of presence as, say Gundam Wing or Stardust Memory. To it's credit, it got a lot better as it got further into the story, and the sequel that followed it, Gundam Seed Destiny enhanced the story and characters further. I just couldn't help but feel like they were pandering to the young, teen angst crap that a lot of shows seem to focus on these days (probably the reason I didn't like Final Fantasy 8 that much, but that's a different story for another time!)

Anyway, back to Double O. As I said before, this show has only just started in Japan, and so far there are only 3 episodes available (just go to veoh.com and search for Gundam 00). My brother is a big Gundam fan, so I knew I had to grab these episodes for him as well as myself! Because they're straight outta Japan, they're currently only available with English subtitles, which is not a problem for me because I'm trying to learn Japanese myself, and it's just good practice to constantly listen to a language you're trying to learn!

So far, I've seen 4 episodes, and I have to say I'm impressed. VERY impressed! I believe that the person that designed the Gundam suits for Double O is the same guy that designed the suits for the Gundam SEED spinoff, Astray. As a result, the suits have a very fresh and original style to them.

The action scenes are the best I've seen to date, with an almost movie-like quality (very high frame-rate). The suits all fall into the standard categories, but each one has been done very well. The characters are a little hard to read at the moment, but at least they're not whiny teenagers like in Gundam SEED (which is always good)!

The story is routed a little closer to reality this time, being based as an extension of our timeline (Anno Domini - A.D.). As a result, there is a lot of political intrigue tied into the actions of the Gundam pilots this time. This isn't one of your "Good guys vs Bad guys" kinda shows. If you like your plots easy to understand, look elsewhere!

Even though I've only seen 4 episodes so far, I'm willing to give it a preliminary rating, that I can use as a benchmark of comparison after I've seen more of the series. That rating is 8.5/10 (pretty generous, eh?)

Only time will tell if this series will develop the potential it has clearly shown so far!


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