Take 3: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Review

Yes, I’m at it again. I’m participating in another Genre Grandeur! After a brief hiatus in October, I was ready to take on whatever challenge came my way. For November, the theme was chosen by David from Blueprint Review. In this Genre Grandeur, they wanted participants to talk about Hong Kong Martial Arts Movies. Whatever movie I picked, I knew this would be a special review. That’s because this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a martial arts film! To figure out which movies qualified of this event, I searched for possible titles on the internet. One of the most well-known films that I saw on one list was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Over the years, I have heard of this movie. But I had never gotten around to watching it. Now, because of MovieRob and David, I finally have an excuse to check it out!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon poster
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon poster created by Sony Pictures Classics, Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Good Machine International, Edko Films, Zoom Hunt Productions, China Film Co-Production Corp., and Asian Union Film & Entertainment Ltd. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190332/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0.

Things I liked about the film:

The character interactions: Throughout the film, there were several character interactions that took place. This aspect of the overall project was very enjoyable for me to see. One reason was because these interactions shared key components of the story, allowing important details to be expressed and character development to take place. The second reason is how these interactions appeared on screen. Because this cast is talented, it gives the actors and actresses the opportunity to present these interactions in a way that feels believable and sincere. Whether it was the camaraderie between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien or the heart-felt encounters between Jen Yu and Lo, each interaction enhanced the material for both the characters and the overall story.

 

The martial arts choreography: The martial arts sequences that are featured in this movie were one of the strongest elements of the project! That’s because of how well choreographed each sequence was. Created by Yuen Wo-Ping, each martial arts movement appeared fast, yet smooth. It seemed like every opponent was engaging in a dance, with each one taking turns in the situation. There were times when some the characters looked like they were flying. This made them appear powerful, like their training had helped them gain a super power. The overall technique was precise and well-thought out. This shows how great of a job Yuen Wo-Ping did when it came to planning these sequences!

 

The scenery: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon excels when it comes to the scenery! There were several natural landscapes featured in this film that were simply breath-taking! What helps was how well they were captured on film. Long and establishing shots showed the audience the true magnificence of these locations. The set designs also played a role in making the scenery memorable. Every set appears authentic for the film’s specific time period. They are also well staged, setting up the scene in a visually appealing way. These key ingredients created a cinematic world that felt immersive.

Tiger in Thailand zoo
Tiger image created by Chevanon at freepik.com.  <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/tiger-looking-straight-ahead_999674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/pattern”>Pattern image created by Chevanon – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The presentation of the subtitles: This is not the first time I’ve reviewed a film that chose to use subtitles. In fact, I have found myself enjoying these movies, such as Les Enfants Terribles and Vampyr. But it’s not the subtitles that were the issue. The color of the subtitles was the flaw, as they were presented in yellow. While it made them easier to see against darker backgrounds, it was difficult to see them against light backgrounds. This was especially the case whenever someone wore a white outfit. To me, I feel that the subtitles should have been presented in the color red. That way, it could have been seen with almost any background.

 

Limited use of martial arts sequences: As I said earlier, I really liked the martial art sequences in this film. However, in the overall project, these sequences were very limited. When I think of a typical martial arts film, I think of it as a part of the action genre, where at least fifty percent of the movie is action-packed. With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the majority of the film focused on the character and story development. This choice causes the movie to not have that 50/50 balance that I was expecting. I found there to be more dialogue-focused scenes than action-focused scenes.

 

A mystery that was too easy to solve: In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, there was a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a legendary, priceless sword. Through dialogue and martial arts sequences, it becomes more obvious who the thief is. I’m not going to spoil the reveal if you haven’t the seen the movie. But, shortly after this particular character was introduced, I knew that they were the guilty culprit. Instead of attempting to solve the mystery alongside the characters, I ended up just waiting for the reveal to take place. It made this part of the story less intriguing.

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Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I’m always grateful whenever MovieRob invites me to join Genre Grandeur. This event, like almost any blogathon, gives me a good excuse to watch films that I might have never seen otherwise. Like I said in the introduction, I had not seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon before. But I’m glad that I finally gave it a chance! This is not just a good martial arts film or a good foreign film. It’s a good film in general! Yes, there were things about it that I wasn’t a fan of, including the ending. But there are components that make me like and appreciate the movie for what it is. I want to thank MovieRob for, once again, inviting me to Genre Grandeur. I also want to thank David, from Blueprint Review, for choosing November’s theme. It gave me a reason to, finally, review a martial arts film for 18 Cinema Lane!

 

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

 

Do you have a favorite martial arts film? What is your favorite part about these types of films? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Stowaway Review (Clean Movie Month — #1)

For the first time ever, I am participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month! Every July, participants are encouraged to watch and write about films that were released within the Breen Code era. This era started in 1934 and ended in 1954. On 18 Cinema Lane, I will be reviewing a Breen Code era film every week during this month! These reviews will be released in the chronological order of the film’s premiere. For my first Clean Movie Month review, I have chosen the Shirley Temple film, Stowaway! Earlier this year, I wrote an editorial about my thoughts on all three of Shirley’s films from 1938. As I said in that editorial, my goal is to watch every single Shirley Temple film ever made. So, if I have a chance to watch a Shirley Temple movie that I haven’t seen before, I will definitely make an effort to do that. So, let’s sail away in Clean Movie Month with 1936’s Stowaway!

Stowaway poster
Stowaway poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Film_Poster_for_Stowaway.jpg.

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: One of the great things about this movie was Shirley’s performance! Like I said about Shirley’s role, Betsy, in Little Miss Broadway, her role in Stowaway felt like it was created just for her. Not only did this role compliment Shirley’s acting abilities, but it challenged her as an actress. At certain moments in the film, Shirley’s character, Barbara/Ching-Ching speaks Chinese. This means that Shirley had to learn her lines in English and learn a new language that she was probably not familiar with before. Shirley was surrounded by a cast of actors and actresses that were just as talented as her! Everyone’s acting talents were equally showcased in this film, helping each performer receive their moment to shine!

 

  • The humor: A pleasant aspect of Stowaway was the humor within the story! One of the funniest scenes in this film was when Ching-Ching is trying to find Tommy Randall while wearing a dragon head. What made moments like this so hilarious was the screen-writing. The way that the dialogue and actions were written was not only innocent, but clever as well. An example of this is when Tommy and Ching-Ching are at a restaurant. While ordering food off of a menu that’s written in Chinese, Tommy tells Ching-Ching, “It’s all Greek to me”. She then replies, “But it’s in Chinese”. This type of humor is what made Stowaway an enjoyable story!

 

  • A unique location: I am not an expert on Shirley Temple’s filmography. But, out of the films that I’m aware of, it seems like most of her movies take place in the United States. Stowaway, however, mostly takes place in China and on a cruise ship. These locations provided a unique look and feel to the overall production. It was interesting to see the Chinese culture playing an influential role within the narrative. The language, music, and even some proverbs could be found in Stowaway. Seeing the various areas of the cruise ship was interesting as well. This backdrop worked really well for the story!
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Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • A limited amount of musical numbers: Earlier this year, when I talked about Just Around the Corner, I said that there was a limited amount of musical numbers in the movie. This made the story feel drawn out and a little bit longer than intended. Similarly, there was a limited amount of musical numbers in Stowaway. Throughout the whole film, there were four musical numbers. However, the first musical number doesn’t appear in the film until after the first thirty-seven minutes. Personally, I think that the first musical number should have, at least, started at the fifteen-minute mark. That way, the audience could get quickly invested into the musical aspect of the movie.

 

  • No Chinese influences in the music: I liked how the Chinese locations, as well as the culture, were incorporated into the film! But I was surprised that there were no Chinese influences in Stowaway’s music. Every song that Shirley sang sounded like the typical musical melody, the usual sounds that are found in Shirley’s films. Even though Shirley spoke Chinese in the movie, none of the lyrics were in Chinese. I feel that the creative team behind Stowaway missed a special opportunity to expand the musical horizons of both the studio and the audience. Who knows? Maybe this could have encouraged someone to learn another language.

 

  • Shirley’s limited involvement in the film: Most of Shirley’s films involve a subplot that allows Shirley’s character to play an important role in the film. While Ching-Ching was a significant character in Stowaway, she didn’t play as big of a role as Shirley’s other characters. It felt like most of the story was about the characters who were adults. In fact, it seemed like Shirley had the least amount of screen-time out of all the performers in the starring cast. While it’s understandable that Shirley was the youngest cast member in this film, it kind of felt like Stowaway wasn’t Shirley’s movie compared to her other titles.
Clean Movie Month banner
Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/cleanmoviemonth85-is-here/.

My overall impression:

For my first Clean Movie Month review, we’re off to a decent start! Stowaway, in my opinion, is better than something like Just Around the Corner. But there are films in Shirley’s filmography that I think are stronger than Stowaway. The most memorable part of this film was the Chinese locations as well as the cruise ship backdrop. They were very unique for a film starring Shirley Temple, especially since most of her films take place in the same continent. The setting of Stowaway provided an interesting component to the story, influencing how the characters interacted with each other and how they accomplished their goals. I can’t say much about the content of the film, since it was approved by the Production Code Administration (as the logo was featured in the bottom left hand corner of the opening credits) and it was released two years after the start of the Breen Code era. It’ll be fascinating to see how this movie compares with the other movies I’ll review during Clean Move Month!

 

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on Clean Movie Month? Are you looking forward to my next review? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen