Xmas movie wrap-up

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Bodyguards and Assassins

By far the best Chinese-language movie of the year, this is a thinking man's action film, which centers on Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a revolutionary leader bent on overthrowing the corrupt Qing Dynasty. He returns to Hong Kong for a secret meeting with local leaders. The imperial court sends assassins, but a hodgepodge of Hongkongers and mainlanders risk their lives to protect him.

Though fictional, this intense tale takes on an extra layer of authenticity with a mammoth set of early 20th century downtown Hong Kong, built in a Shanghai backlot. The all-star ensemble cast is so immersed in their roles and their characters so richly etched out that each could grow into a separate storyline.

The action sequences are well designed and executed, enriching characterization. But this is not a movie where you fight to look good. It has a lofty spirit - an ideal that embodies the long-term urges of the Hong Kong people and their affinity with the mainland.

The Treasure Hunter

This film is so lame it becomes a comedy, as opposed to the adventure story it was intended to be. Starring Taiwan pop icon Jay Chou and model Lin Chi-ling, it has a classic storyline - a couple explore an ancient treasure land - but never reaches the humble heights that the "Mummy" series and other passable adventure films achieve.

The hero is like a video game avatar, fighting one rival after another, for no apparent reason.

Loopholes are everywhere. An inn in the heart of the desert has water falling from an electric fan every minute; while the corpse in a watery tomb is totally dry. The scene of treasure hunters entering and leaving an ancient tomb full of poisonous air without any masks is another faux pas.

Counting how many loopholes the film has will be the first thing you want to do after seeing it, because it makes you feel superior to the screenwriters, but soon you will give up on such a tedious job. Further discussion of the storyline is unnecessary because there is no real plot to speak of.

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