Shadow Magic
***.3 GM
Starring: Xia Yu, Jared Harris, Xing Yufei, Lu Peigi, Lu Liping, Yufei Xing, Fang Qingzhuo, Jingming Wang

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Everybody's jaded as all get out these days. Cell phones everywhere, dadblamed Internet all up in yer face, the works. It's cool that we done made all these new-fangled contraptions and all, but every once in a while, it's really refreshing to be brought back to a time when the inventions we take for granted are introduced for the very first time, and seeing all the incredulous reactions it inspires in the amazed witnesses.

"Shadow Magic" refers to the sensationalistic name given to the first moving pictures presented to citizens in turn-o'-the-century Peking, China, by a vagabond Englishman. The new technology fascinates a young fella named Liu, but the conflicts created beteween the amazing new breakthrough and the hallowed traditions of culture threaten to unravel Liu's whole life.

A great deal of time is spent showing people marvelling at the fancy images dancing on the screen, and it inspires a similar sense of awe in people who are actually watching this marvelling on a much more advanced version of what's being marvelled at. If you catch my drift. Of course, this might be because I also saw The Dish on the same day and was primed for appreciating giant leaps for mankind.

The performances are all engaging, especially Xia Yu's Liu, trapped between two cultures and forced to make decisions about whether ignore something he's passionate about to obey his family's wishes or to follow a dream and throw aside his loyalty and honor. It's an involving little drama that helps a brotha appreciate the beginnings of something that he's felt compelled to build a whole friggin' website around, and it showcases the kind of awe and captivation that movies can still achieve when done well enough.

Let's root for some good-ass flicks.

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