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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Jackie Chan: Purity in motion

Posted: 22 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Jackie Chan stays true to the things he does best in the latest Police Story movie.

SPECIAL effects may have changed the way most modern action blockbusters are made; but action maestro Jackie Chan still swears by the real thing.

"A genuine action movie is marked by real stunts," insisted the star, who was in town last week to promote his latest movie, Police Story 2013.

This point of view is only to be expected from a man who holds the Guinness World Record for Most Stunts By A Living Actor. This was one of the two world records awarded to him last year after he made Chinese Zodiac (CZ12). The other title was for Most Credits In One Movie – he wore a total of 15 hats on the CZ12 production.

For a man who has been making action movies across five decades, Chan continues to surprise many with his boundless energy, enthusiasm for filmmaking, and daring new ideas. Casually dressed in a blue and white striped shirt and white pants, Jackie was in his usual chatty mood as he sat down and immediately started to neatly arrange the assortment of recording devices lined up on the table in front of him.

Looking up to see all eyes watching him as he straightened out everything in front of him, Chan smiled and offered: "Yes, I have ADD (attention deficit disorder) and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Sitting down here to do this interview is actually more of a challenge to me than you can imagine. I am a naturally active person. I like to move around and keep myself occupied. I also like everything to be tidy and I like to make sure that everything is in order before I begin."

Police Story 2013 is the sixth installment of the famed franchise, the first film of which is still his favourite. The 1985 Police Story won Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards; Chan himself won two Best Actor accolades for the series, first at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards for the 1992 Police Story 3: Supercop and then at China's Golden Rooster Awards for the 2004 New Police Story.

Honour the bold

With the increasing focus on film awards these days, Chan said he also wanted to establish a stunt action film award that would "give recognition to the true heroes that contribute to the success of good action movies".

"It is time (we) paid tribute to real action stars and genuine stunt performers. A film award with categories for best action movie, best action performer for both male and female actors, best action director, best stunt choreography, best fight scene and such.

"Many times, as I stand before the true heroes, the unknown faces of committed stunt performers who lay their lives on the line, all for the sake of making a good action film, I wish that others would realise how much blood, sweat and tears were involved," shared Chan, who has broken practically every bone in his body. In fact, he almost died after sustaining a head injury during a stunt for the 1986 film Armour Of God.

"A martial arts actor has his work cut out for him. Trying to act and remembering your lines while trying to fight and getting your choreography right; that is definitely not easy to do.

"Most people don't realise how difficult it is to focus on getting everything right. That is why action movies used to focus on action only. But now, a good script is of paramount importance. I will only make a movie if the script is good," offered Chan.

Chan went on to say how Police Story 2013 director Ding Sheng bowled him over with a good script, among other things.

"Ding Sheng is a very talented man. He impressed me with his well-written script. His storyboard was in order. He even composed the songs. I Immediately asked when we could commence filming," Chan said, singing the praises of the mainland filmmaker who also directed his Little Big Soldier (2010).

Mirroring real life

In Police Story 2013, Chan plays a veteran cop who has issues with his estranged daughter, played by mainland actress Jing Tian. The villain, played by China's Liu Ye, takes advantage of their strained relations in a hostage situation.

Pointing to his relationship with his family, Chan said the character in the movie also mirrored his own, in the way he neglected son Jaycee and wife Joan Lin because his days were spent away from home, as he travelled around the world for movies and other projects.

Like other Jackie Chan movies, Police Story 2013 also includes a blooper reel during the end credits. One scene shows Chan's wrists being bound to the arm of a chair with thick metal wires and how he tries to free himself using only brute strength and perseverance.

"I was told that it couldn't be done. But, that only strengthened my resolve, so I insisted on doing it. I wanted to show Jaycee that it was possible, and that I could do it," quipped Chan, who just had to prove his son wrong when the young man paid a visit to the set.

Despite his show of nonchalance in the movie, it was apparent that his wrists were badly bruised, cut and even bleeding after he succeeded in breaking free of his bonds.

"It was not easy to do. The skin and flesh around the wrist area is the thinnest, and just a bit of scraping will reveal the bone in most cases," he explained.

Chan's fight scenes in the movie also looked very painful, and he admitted that they were as painful as they looked: "The fights were with genuine MMA (mixed martial arts) boxers, not stuntmen; so, they didn't know how to control their strength when we were filming the fight sequences. Those were rock-hard, solid punches and kicks."

After he worked with Jet Li on Forbidden Kingdom, Chan said, audiences have been asking for another movie pitting the two stars in another legendary fight scene. "Even Jet Li has said to me: 'I will play the main antagonist'. And, I am very keen to work with him. But, since we are basically similar in (our) strengths, we have yet to find a suitable script," he lamented.

The Hong Kong action star turns 60 next year and his birthday plans include the staging of a Peace and Friendship concert in Beijing. The multiple-act event is set to feature performers from all over Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Other upcoming projects include a sequel to his 2010 Karate Kid, a fourth Rush Hour film with Chris Tucker, a musical, and the setting up of a martial arts acting school.

"Not just martial arts, but a martial arts acting school. And, it will not be just martial arts and acting. I will teach everything about making action movies. I will even include skills such as framing and editing. I want to train them to become all-round action stars!" he enthused.

*Police Story 2013 opens nationwide tomorrow.

Related story:

Jackie's cop saga

Hear the picture, see the sound

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

There's a new immersive cinema sound system in town.

IN 1974, cinemagoers flocked to see the disaster movie Earthquake, not for the astounding special effects of the day, nor for the star appeal of Charlton Heston, but for the literally earth-shattering new sound system called Sensurround.

The system, developed by audio manufacturers Cerwin-Vega, utilised low frequencies to shake audiences in their seats, thus approximating the experience of a real earthquake. It was an instant hit and was also used for the war movie Midway (1976) and another disaster movie, Rollercoaster (1977), as well as two Battlestar Galactica movies.

Over the years, cinema audio systems have seen various improvements. When American digital surround sound specialists DTS introduced digital surround sound with 1993's Jurassic Park, people queued around the block to catch the realistic roar of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

But surround sound only enabled sounds that went around the cinema hall. Now sound specialist Dolby has gone a step further by introducing Dolby Atmos, a system that enables sound to come even from above, thus creating a wholly realistic and immersive aural environment. Now, sounds can be anywhere in the cinema hall, not just at the front or back or left to right and vice-versa. For example, dialogue doesn't have to be just in the centre any more. As was demonstrated by the animated film Brave, with which the Atmos system made its debut last year at the Los Angeles Film Festival, a voice can follow a character in any direction and position.

LEAD PIX ON PAGE 25: Getting kudos: According to Stuart Bowling, feedback on the Dolby Atmos sound system from audiences has been extremely positive. 

According to Stuart Bowling, feedback on the Dolby Atmos sound system from audiences has been extremely positive.

GSC One Utama in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, is the first cineplex in Malaysia to install the Dolby Atmos system. It recently held a demonstration for the media that showed off the system's impressive capabilities with the sounds of a jungle, a thunderstorm and pattering rain, and a singer playing an acoustic guitar seemingly walking around the cinema hall. Simply put, it is sound in 3D.

Dolby Atmos can utilise more than 60 speakers (including an array on the ceiling) and up to 128 channels, depending on the size of a cinema hall. The hall in GSC One Utama has 54 speakers and 46 channels. The large set-up ensures that there is no sound deterioration during panning, and the possibilities are endless for a filmmaker.

Notable directors such as Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Ang Lee have mixed their films in Atmos. This year alone, 85 films have been mixed in Atmos. To date there are 300 screens worldwide that are equipped with the Atmos system, while 40 studios around the world are equipped to mix in Atmos.

Asked if the added cost of installing the Atmos system was substantial for GSC, Heng Beng Fatt, the exhibitor's deputy general manager, said: "This is a new technology that will bring customers to the cinemas. We look at it as enhancing the cinema experience. More people will come and the occupancy will be higher. We only charge an extra RM1, but we will recover the cost.

"We have been continuously upgrading with digital 3D and so on. We have to keep up with the technology because, otherwise, it would be like the old days when the cinemas faded away."

Stuart Bowling, Dolby Laboratories' market development director, was on hand to answer questions about the system.

How have cinema audiences responded to Atmos?

The feedback that we got from exhibition has been extremely positive. There's an exhibitor in California, whose venue, after putting in Atmos for Man Of Steel, actually outgrew the IMAX cinema near it. We have other examples of exhibitors actually seeing an increase in occupancy rate. Even if you just search on Twitter for Atmos, there's a lot of positive feedback.

Which film do you feel best used Atmos?

It's a bit like asking which child do you like more? (Laughs.) I think Gravity used Atmos incredibly well.

I think part of that was because silence was used very powerfully in that movie. The great thing about Atmos is, can it make an explosion big and life-like? Absolutely. But it can also make you acutely aware of subtlety and detail, which is what happened with Gravity.

Obviously every movie is driven by an artist, and it's how the artist uses the instrument to the best of his ability. It's open to debate and interpretation.

Is there a "sweet spot" in a cinema hall for the best experience?

The system is designed to give a uniform coverage of sound pressure across the seats. Obviously, the way our brains put sound and visuals together means if you're in the middle, then you're basically in the main spot where you're going to be immersed in the picture and audio. But in general, you would get a better experience than you would with 5.1 or 7.1 channel systems.

Because we're now creating a spatial environment, you can get a slightly different experience no matter where you sit. For instance, in (the first instalment of) The Hobbit, Gollum was in a cave, and if you sat in the front of the cinema, then you would hear water drops coming down from the cave ceiling. If you were in the back right-hand corner, you would hear some of the water coming in filling the pool inside the cave.

No matter where you sit, we're giving you a representation of that environment so that if you really were there with the characters, that would be exactly how you would experience the sounds.

How much does an Atmos mix add to a film's budget?

We had a production recently that went through the Atmos mix, and they actually shaved time off the production.

They cut down three physical days of mixing. But there is an additional day in print mastering. But ultimately they saved two days.

Any plans to make Atmos available for home theatre?

If you look at what Dolby's done over its history, then either technology has transitioned into other areas, or parts of the technology have transitioned and provided improvements downstream. Right now Atmos has only been a product for six months, and it's too early to tell yet how Atmos could transition beyond the cinema space.

It's very difficult to replicate what Atmos does. Not many people can put 64 speakers in their house! They probably could, but they'll be single for the rest of their lives! (Laughs.)

War, webs, wisecracks

Posted: 20 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Check out some of these new trailers.

BEFORE you can say "Spidey's back", a second trailer has been released for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 1) in the span of two weeks.

Like the earlier trailer, this one is action-packed but it also has loads of humour in it. Besides the friendly neighbourhood guy hurling one-liners at the bad guys, the bits about Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) trying to get out of tough situations with Aunt May (Sally Field) and Gwen (Emma Stone) are worth a chuckle.

This doesn't mean the trailer is devoid of dark mystery – there's plenty of that too.

Speaking of mysteries, Christopher Nolan's next hush-hush project – Interstellar (Nov 6) – just had a teaser trailer released. But really, the teaser doesn't reveal anything (typical Nolan move) except that it has to do with space, which we already got from the title. In this 56s teaser, we hear Matthew McConaughey's character recall Man's greatest achievements especially in space exploration. The film is based on a scientific theory developed by Caltech physicist Kip Thorne. It revolves around a group of explorers travelling through a wormhole and into another dimension.

And the final exciting trailer to come out in recent weeks is Edge Of Tomorrow (May 29), starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Remember these words: Live, Die, Repeat. Cruise and Blunt are soldiers who live the same day again and again – the day they die in a war against an alien race.

From the various bits we see, Cruise's character is a soldier who has just been recruited to be in the battlefield. With zero fighting skills, he is killed soon after ... until he wakes up again.

With the help of another soldier, with similar experience, he trains to be a skilled fighter. If the story sounds interesting, the visuals are even more impressive – especially in the last few seconds which has Cruise attacking the aliens like he is running out of time, which he probably is. Phew.

Is it 2014 already?

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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