Yesterday I watched Curse of the Golden Flower and was really surprised. I thought it wasn't going to be as good as other titles like Hero and House of Flying Daggers but it was actually better.
You could think of it as a Chinese version of Macbeth, with all the darkness and betrayals in it. Basically, the Empress is slowly being poisoned by her husband, who is using a special black mushroom that sends a person crazy after a couple of months in her medicine for anemia. However, the Empress is hatching a plan to try and get the Emperor to stand down from his post. Obviously, there's a lot more going on than that, but most of the story revolves around this strand. There's a great bit towards the end with a massive battle that's just as spectacular as the final scenes of Hero. The settings are amazing as well. The palace they live in is a wonderful blend of colours with everything laced in gold and decorated magnificently. The costumes are great too, you just have to look at the Empress's dresses to see that (they're beautiful. Really stunning).
How on earth did this film get pretty much panned by the critics? It has much more emphasis on story rather than action, everything is explained well, and when the action does kick in the ninjas are spectacular. Plus it has a really shocking end. I hope some of these film critics re-evaluate their stance because out of all the Chinese martial art films I've seen, this one's probably the best (well, Hero does come a close second...)