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FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, THE

SYNOPSIS:
While hunting down bootleg kung-fu DVDs in a Chinatown pawnshop, Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) makes an extraordinary discovery that sends him hurtling back in time to ancient China. There, Jason is charged with a monumental task: he must free the fabled warrior the Monkey King (Jet Li), who has been imprisoned by the powerful Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). Jason is joined in his quest by wise kung fu master Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) and a band of misfit warriors including Silent Monk (Jet Li). But only by learning the true precepts of kung fu can Jason hope to succeed - and find a way to get back home.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Fans of Jackie Chan and fans of Jet Li (many of both) will not want to miss this historic first on-screen meeting, in which their off screen respect for each other is one of the drivers of their scenes together. There is banter and martial arts aplenty as they clash in some wonderfully choreographed fight scenes, before teaming up as teachers and support team to young Jason (Michael Angarano) from 'another world'. The two veterans bring experience - and quite a set of expectations.

The latter is not fully met, though, not due to any shortcomings on their part (except perhaps their fractured English) but the weaknesses in a screenplay that is not as engaging as it should be. The story is hardly original and the dialogue is often clunky or trite.

On the positive side, all of the Chinese locations are spectacular, and the production design is wonderfully ornate. Woo-Ping Yuen's masterful choreography also adds weight to the spectacle and the thrills. Angarano is a fine young actor, but seems self conscious about his two overlapping front teeth when shooting close ups; it distracts as soon as we become aware of him trying to keep his upper lip over his teeth.

The gorgeous young Liu Yifei is effective as the daughter of a murdered family seeking revenge and Collin Chou is nasty as the Jade Warlord. The fantasy based story lends itself to the martial arts magic much used in fight sequences, but they do tend to lessen the tension after a while, seen to be mere trick of the movies. Still, it's entertaining enough if you aren't too fussy.

Review by Louise Keller:
The first onscreen meeting of screen legends Jackie Chan and Jet Li is possibly reason enough to see this fantasy, whose extravagant martial arts sequences have been choreographed by Woo-ping Yuen, whose signature was inked in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Both play dual roles, although in the case of Chan, the secondary role is possibly best left for you to discover. As a fantasy, there is much to recommend it, with its magic and mystical thrust, although the storytelling and the spoken English, often unintelligible, has a little to be desired.

The irrepressible Chan is in fine form as the Kung Fu master Lu Yan for whom wine is the elixir of life and whose views on mortality are philosophical, while Li playing both the cheeky Monkey King and the Silent Monk, lets his actions do the talking. Of course the action sequences are central to our focus and there are many including backdrops of a bamboo forest, ancient temples and a garden of cherry blossoms to quote but a few. We are a bit more blasé these days where wire work is concerned and how legitimate the martial arts sequences are, however these scenes are shot impressively with plenty of drama and illusion. Michael Angarano works well as the young protagonist ('kung fu boy') Jason, who learns the way in order to find his own way, as he ventures through the gate where there is no gate as part of his coming of age. Yifei Liu as Sparrow Girl, whose destiny is predicated by the jade dart that holds up her cascading, silky black hair, believes music is the bridge between Earth and Heaven, while Li Bing Bing as Ni Chang, the white-haired demoness, is an evil Rapunzel who uses her ultra-long locks in tandem with her whip as a lethal weapon. And Collin Chou is a picture-book villain as the Jade Warlord, whose participates in some pretty nifty action sequences.

'Don't think, just do,' Chan's Lu Yan tells Jason, as he gives his protégé on the job training in the art of kung fu. I enjoyed the sequence when Lu Yan uses Jason's hands to help Jason learn the skill of the martial arts, and, Grasshopper, there are some wise-sayings such as the man who honours his teacher honours himself. The Forbidden Kingdom offers some priceless gems, in the form of Chan and Li, but falls short of being a memorable epic.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, THE (PG)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Michael Angarano, Liu Yifei, Juana Collignon, Morgan Benoit, Bingbing Li

PRODUCER: Casey Silver

DIRECTOR: Rob Minkoff

SCRIPT: John Fusco

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Pau

EDITOR: Eric Strand

MUSIC: David Buckley

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Brzeski

OTHER: Action choreography: Woo-Ping Yuen

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 24, 2008

UPCOMING EVENT
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney.

Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.







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