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Carter King
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Detective Dee: Mystery Of The Phantom Flame 720p Movies [TOP]

A super-sized fantasy epic -- and a cracking good mystery story -- from a director who, for this viewer's money, has never completely lost his mojo, despite some box-office and critical misfires in recent years. DETECTIVE DEE carries on the tradition of exhilarating visual craftsmanship that Tsui Hark has demonstrated on many of his pictures over the years, only here it's fronted by a franchise-worthy leading figure in real-life Tang Dynasty forensic detective De Renjie (Andy Lau), and buttressed with Tsui's inimitable visual zest and a smart, politically-tinged and ultimately very satisfying mystery narrative in which senior government officials spontaneously combust from the inside out. As in his best costume fantasies (and even a couple of his not-so-best, such as LEGEND OF ZU), Tsui again conjures some of the most captivating scenery yet seen in a Chinese film, including a 200-foot tall statue-in-progress of Buddha (complete with scaffolding and suspension bridges connected to a central tower) that figures prominently into a spectacular plot to kill the wicked and divisive Empress Wu (Carina Lau), and the underground Phantom Market, a massive, forbidding, fire-lit city of caves wherein a key witness (Richard Ng) resides. Opulent palace interiors have been seen in countless Chinese films and TV series over the years, but feel fresh here -- I don't know if it's simply new sets, new set dressing or new camera angles, but it all feels purpose-built for this production (perhaps it was?). Sammo Hung's choreography is impeccably designed and flawlessly edited, and loaded with the kind of soaring wireworked wuxia you may not realize you sorely missed in Hong Kong/Chinese action movies because so many people have knocked it nearly every time it has been used in the last decade. The film's plentiful CGI is, for the most part, seamlessly integrated, such is the level of technical expertise of contemporary effects houses across Asia, in this case armies of computer jockeys in Korea and Hong Kong (their only weak spot perhaps being an onslaught of battling deer, which are just enough left-of-field to make up for any weaknesses in their rendering). Despite being largely a Mainland production (as far as I know), this has the heart and soul of a classic Hong Kong fantasy, particularly those of it's ace director, albeit one made with much cooler modern filmmaking toys. (Viewed at TIFF 2010)

Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame 720p movies

I'm sorry, but I really don't get on with the films of Tsui Hark. I see them as an example of style over substance, and try as I might to enjoy them, it rarely happens. Hark's style is something I'm not a fan of: he makes superficial, speedy-paced movies that look great but lack depth and substance. DETECTIVE DEE, a film about a detective investigating bizarre cases of spontaneous human combustion in ancient China, is a case in point.The film does have some good points. A Chinese murder mystery/action adventure is a new one on me, and there's a kind of fresh and inventive spin to it that keeps you watching. The visuals, despite being created by some sometimes cheesy CGI, are admittedly impressive, with the Buddhist version of the Statue of Liberty looming large in the story. The cast is also strong.But something's missing, and that's the viewer's involvement in the storyline. I never felt engaged or caught up in what was going on, and the eventual solving of the mystery was nothing but a silly disappointment. Indeed, the film descends into silliness on more than one occasion; don't go looking for realism, whatever you do. Watching this, I'm reminded of why I don't get on with Hong Kong's lavish, wirework-infused costume fantasies of the 1990s. Give me down-to-earth realism any day.Despite headlining the cast, Andy Lau feels missing in action for much of this film. Viewers are led through the mystery by his detective, but we never learn much about him and characterisation is nil. The albino warrior, played by Chao Deng, is a much more interesting character, as is Tony Leung Ka Fei's master builder. The female roles also feel a bit underwritten to me. Sammo's listed as action director, but the action is brief and doesn't make any impact whatsoever. It's certainly not the finest hour for anyone involved.


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