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The Knight Of Shadows: Between Yin And Yang (Movie Review)

The story: The boundary between the world of humans and monsters has collapsed, and hordes of demons are pouring into the human realm. A legendary demon hunter (Jackie Chan) defends humanity from an inhuman invasion, aided by a motley group of friendly monsters. He teams up with police detective Fei (Austin Lin) to solve the case involving teenage village girls who have gone missing.

Tales from the short story collection Strange Stories From A Chinese Studio have been adapted into so many films and plays over the decades, that yet another movie adaptationwould have to be that much different.

And while this latest movie's brilliant computer-generated imagery and Jackie Chan's everyman charm work in its favour, there is still somehow a feeling that we have seen some of these characters before.

Chan plays Pu Songling, a demon hunter with a glowing magical calligraphy brush whose powers are as formidable as they are visually impressive, like being able to summon tentacle-like chains to entrap monsters.

Already known for his martial arts prowess, Chan also shinesin physical comedy and imbues his character with a playful sense of humour. For instance, he uses the brush to draw cat whiskers on a police detective in one scene, and falls to the ground after being cut loose from his binds in another.

This is a Jackie Chan everyone knows and loves. Accompanied by a crew of mostly pint-sized friendly demons, he goes on a rollicking adventure through fantasy and legend, filled with stunning backdrops - from a secluded bamboo forest to a vast torrential sea.

Unfortunately, the movie goes off the rails at the introduction of a secondary plot, which is loosely adapted from the short story of Xiaoqian, a female ghost who falls in love with a human scholar.

In this movie, Xiaoqian is a beautiful demoness played by Chinese actress Elaine Zhong, who is romantically linked to another demon hunter played by Taiwanese actor Ethan Juan. But despite the pair's idol good looks and on-screen chemistry, their tangled love story seems rehashed from many other films, such as the 1987 and 2011 versions of A Chinese Ghost Story, as well as the 1997 animated version.

The result? A tacky melodrama which serves more as a distraction than a major plotline.

It would have been much better if the film had just stuck with the entertaining Jackie Chan.


GLASS (Movie Review)

Some people believe that they're heroes with extraordinary powers. But Dr. Ellie Staple calls that idea a comic book-fueled delusion of grandeur. She's convinced, in fact, that such fantasies often arise out traumas from deluded people's painful childhoods.

Dr. Staple has become quite famous for her theory. Because of that, she's been given the opportunity to work with three very special cases.

Kevin Crumb is a murderer with some 23 distinct personalities. One of those transforms Kevin into a hulking, vein-popping, wall-climbing killer that his other personalities call the Beast. But really, isn't it all just an amazing feat of self-delusion stemming from the man's abuse at the hands of his mother as a child? Dr. Staple tries to convince him. (Or, perhaps more accurately, them, as she talks to the likes of Patricia, Hedwig, Barry, Jade, Orwell, Heinrich or Norma—just a few of the personalities who manifest through the young man.)

The second subject is David Dunn. He nearly drowned as a boy. And because of this near-death experience, this now gray-haired man has not only convinced himself that he is physically indestructible, but also that he is super strong and has the ability to psychically sense when someone is a villain. (It's a claim that has some validity, however, as David was the sole survivor of a horrific train crash many years before.)

The third subject, Elijah Price, or Mr. Glass as he calls himself, is an unfortunate elderly man plagued with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease that cause his limbs to shatter at the slightest impact. In spite of his physical infirmities, or more likely because of them, the hyper-intelligent mastermind is arguably the most dangerous and disturbed of the three. He wholeheartedly believes that comic books have chronicled the existence of powered-up heroes and villains, like him and his fellow inmates, for decades.

Dr. Staple is having none of it. She employs logic and science to refute these damaged patients' superhero delusions. She prods them to see that the "facts" they have been basing their beliefs on are completely false. And in the cases of Kevin and David, they're beginning to wonder if she's right.

Mr. Glass, however, isn't convinced. So he may soon require a … procedure on his brain to make him more mentally malleable. A simple, but very effective procedure.

What this self-assured psychologist doesn't realize, however, is that Mr. Glass—who's drugged most of the time to keep him from causing trouble—has plans of his own. He's quietly working on a plan to stoke the Beast into slaughtering rage and to send David Dunn out to rescue thousands from the man's superhuman fury. If this imbecilic doctor wants to see some proof of who the three of them really are, he'll give it to her.

Then the whole world will witness what real superpower looks like.

THE UPSIDE (Movie Review)

Dell is on parole and needs a job, or it’s back to prison.

But finding work after doing time isn’t easy. Nor is mustering the motivation to care. And, really, motivation has never been Dell's strong suit anyway. Then again, if he wants to see his tween son, Anthony, he's going to have to figure out a way to pay child support to his ex, Latrice.

So in a somewhat half-hearted effort to be a better man and stay out of a cell, Dell wanders New York City saying whatever he needs to get a few signatures to show the judge he’s moving in a positive direction when it comes to finding a job.

A few fast food joints and a call center or two later, Dell only needs one more signature. Easy. But when he ends up on the top floor of a super-ritzy housing complex, he’s taken aback. Is this where he’s supposed to be? Is this the janitor job he thought he was looking for?

Never mind, he has no time to waste. He has to pick up his son from school. So, in typical Dell fashion, he barges into an ongoing interview to get what, he believes, is rightfully owed him. But he won’t be getting a signature so easily. Not this time.

That's because the interview process he interrupts is for an entirely different kind of job: taking care of an extraordinarily wealthy, quadriplegic man named Phillip.

Dell's obviously not qualified for that job. But Phillip sees something in Dell that's missing all the other, much more experienced, applicants—much to the horror of the man's uptight personal business manager, Yvonne. And so he offers Dell not just a signature, but a job.

It's not quite Dell’s cup of tea, of course. But his desire to be a better dad, and to make some money, motivates him to take a chance. And what begins as an obligatory, judicial step becomes a unlikely friendship that pushes both Dell and Phillip to see their lives from two very different points of view.

ESCAPE ROOM (Movie Review)

“Escape rooms are like living video games,” a game-geek guy named Danny says excitedly while chatting with fellow contestants in the Minos waiting room. He ought to know, he tells them, since he’s participated in 93 such adventures before.

The Minos Escape Rooms, though, are something special. Danny has read online that few have ever beaten the Minos Rooms. And he gushes about the street cred his group will grab if they get out.

The other five participants waiting with him, however, aren’t really all that excited about potential online accolades. They have their own reasons for showing up.

Cutthroat businessman Jason is purely interested in besting another challenge that he hasn’t yet conquered. Quiet-but-super-smart Zoey just wants to step outside her comfort zone. Blue-collar trucker Mike is interested in the winner’s cash prize. Meanwhile, stoner Ben and former vet Amanda have their own private motivations, which they both hold close to the vest.

One thing’s for sure, though: They all want to get started. In fact, Ben feels so antsy about all the waiting around, as well as the other players’ incessant jibber-jabber, that he decides to slip out for a pregame cigarette.

The only reason he hasn’t lit up already is because there's supposed to be some Game Master guy showing up soon. It’s this dude’s job to lay out the rules for the clue-finding and room-escaping activity that the six participants are about to embark upon. But if he doesn't care about being late, Ben's gonna have one last smoke.

But when disheveled Ben reaches for his cigs and then the waiting room doorknob, the latter snaps off in his hand. And nestled in the hole left behind is something that looks like the dial on … an oven. “What the … ?” Ben growls.

Danny, however, just about leaps for joy. This must be it!, he exclaims. They’re already in the escape room. It’s the waiting room itself! And just like that, the six disparate strangers begin looking for clues. Zoey, for instance, soon spies the cover of an old Ray Bradbury novel, Fahrenheit 451. Surely that’s important, right?

Maybe so.

With a twist of the oven dial on the room’s door, the ceiling starts to glow hot with what look like oven coils. After another attempted application of a clue, the walls begin to glow red as well. It’s as if the room itself is turning into a giant oven. And the six people in it are the baking pastries of choice.

“Never seen anything like this,” gamer Danny admits. “Really immersive.”

But others in the room are beginning to suspect that this increasingly grim game … isn’t really a game at all.

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