May 2010 | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Review: A SERIOUS MAN (2009)


RATING: 2/5

Much like their radical departure in 2007's Oscar-winning NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, writer-directors Ethan Coen and Joel Coen defies expectations again with A SERIOUS MAN, arguably their most personal film ever made. While their new movie is a black comedy, it's really nothing like they ever done before. In fact, the comedy is so bleak that it's a tough sell even for fans who admire the Coen brothers' work. And here lies the biggest problem -- it's a seriously unconventional movie about faith, family, mortality and misfortune. Such subject matters are of course, very familiar but it's hardly universal at all. Not at least in the Coen brothers' dictionary. Suffice to say, it's a difficult movie to get hooked at or worst still, hard to laugh at because it paints a deeply cryptic metaphor about the Jewish community. Unless you have certain understanding about the Jewish, this is an otherwise tough movie to sit through.



Review: THE MESSENGER (2009)


RATING: 3/5

Of late, Iraqi-themed war movie is either about focusing on fighting for country or debating politics, it's refreshing to see something out of the norm. In THE MESSENGER, the story is more about grief, loss, love, recovery and relationships.



Saturday, 29 May 2010

Review: EDGE OF DARKNESS (2010)


RATING: 2/5

Based on the highly-popular, award-winning 1985's BBC series of the same name, EDGE OF DARKNESS is a refreshing throwback to a thinking man's police thriller that Hollywood doesn't really make anymore. Not only that, this movie has a caliber of seasoned veterans on the helm -- original series director Martin Campbell is responsible for the remake here; screenwriters Andrew Bovell and especially William Monahan of THE DEPARTED (2006) fame; and of course a long-awaited comeback performance from Mel Gibson, who hasn't been acting for almost eight years after his 2002's SIGNS. From the basic outlook, it seems destined to be a knockout but there's a solid reason why this movie is dumped for January release instead -- an obvious sign for any movie with little fanfare or bad publicity. It's a real shame, because EDGE OF DARKNESS could have been successful except it is not. Instead, it's a half-realized thriller that tries too hard to be smart, thoughtful and exciting at the same time.



Review: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)



RATING: 1/5

Much like the creatively-bankrupt revival of last year's FRIDAY THE 13TH, Platinum Dunes's horror remake specialty has finally gone an all-time low with this unnecessary re-imagining of Wes Craven's 1984 classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. What's even more shocking is that this is the worst NIGHTMARE movies ever made, so bad that those lesser sequels in the past are much more entertaining.



Review: PRINCE OF PERSIA (2010)



RATING: 2.5/5

Based on one of the most successful video games of all-time, the eagerly-awaited adaptation of PRINCE OF PERSIA is a fairly enjoyable summer romp -- disposable, that is -- but ultimately lack of epic grandeur and lasting quality to make this an otherwise good old-fashioned action adventure in the vein of ARABIAN NIGHTS-vibe.



Friday, 28 May 2010

Review: THE LOSERS (2010)


RATING: 2/5

Been there, done that. That's pretty much sum up for THE LOSERS, an awfully mediocre and (sadly) uninspired globe-trotting action comedy. Never mind the fact the movie is actually based on DC Vertigo comic since it's no difference than most like-minded genre you have seen countless times before.


Monday, 24 May 2010

Review: TRUE LEGEND 蘇乞兒 (2010)



RATING: 2.5/5

Over the last decade, legendary martial-arts choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping has made a household name in Hollywood, notably for his successful collaboration with the Wachowski brothers in THE MATRIX movies. And it's no surprise his much-awaited return to director's chair after 1996's TAI CHI 2 is one of the highly-anticipated martial-arts blockbusters of the year. The result is TRUE LEGEND, an entertaining homage to Shaw Brothers-style that blends with old-school technique and modern vibe. It's not entirely successful, no thanks to disjointed narrative, over-reliant on CG and unnecessary patriotic third act.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Review: THE LONGEST NITE 暗花 (1998)

Review: THE LONGEST NITE 暗花 (1998)

The story is set in Macau, where two rival gangs Mr K (Fong Kang) and Mr Lung (Lung Fong) are attempting to negotiate a truce and hoping to join forces before the legendary big boss Mr Hung (Law Jing-Ting) returns. Unfortunately, Mr Lung is also learned that a contract worth $5 million dollars has been taken out on his life and he quickly suspects it's Mr K who is the mastermind. Mr K, of course, denies such claims and he send Sam (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), a dirty cop who works for him, to investigate the truth. Sam's method for getting information out of any suspects has always resorted to violence, and so far his investigation is fruitless. That is not until the mysterious arrival of a bald stranger named Tony (Lau Ching-Wan) who arrives in town, with a sports bag. Sam suspects Tony is up to something bad but can't seem to figure out the exact truth. As the night goes on, it becomes clear that the whole event isn't just about the assassination of Mr Lung but something more than what has originally expected.

Review: GREEN ZONE (2010)



RATING: 2/5

On paper, GREEN ZONE is looking set to be the most commercially-successful movie ever made about Iraqi invasion. It's not hard to see why -- the movie is brought by the same team (actor Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass) who made two highly-successful BOURNE series (2004's THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and 2007's THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM) and it has been heavily touted as "BOURNE IN IRAQ", judging from its like-minded template that centers on a man's quest to uncover the truth. In addition to that, Greengrass himself a seasoned filmmaker who used to shoot documentaries in war zones, thus making him a shoo-in of crafting a potentially good movie for such genre. This is especially evident when he made an impact with the controversial but stunning 2006's UNITED 93. Despite all the massive hype, GREEN ZONE is surprisingly a major letdown -- a so-called thinking man's war drama that is actually more of a cliched-ridden movie with little insight or depth to engage us all the way.



Review: 14 BLADES 錦衣衛 (2010)

Review: 14 BLADES 錦衣衛 (2010)

Donnie Yen is Qing Long, the head bodyguard and top assassin of the Jin Yi Wei working for the emperor of Ming Dynasty. He leads a special army, which all equipped the famed "14 Blades", a set of deadly weapons stored in a box carried around on their backs. Eight of the blades are meant for torture, five for killing, and the last one is for suicide if a Jin Yi Wei member fails to accomplish his mission. They are ruthless and has no sympathy whatsoever. But the Jin Yi Wei brotherhood is quickly falling apart when Qing Long is betrayed by evil eunuch Jia (Law Kar-Ying) and corrupted Jin Yi Wei member Xuan Wu (Singaporean actor Qi Yuwu). Apparently, Xuan Wu is responsible for masterminding the killing of some of the righteous Jin Yi Wei members before leading the rest in a manhunt for Qing Long. Qing Long becomes a fugitive and manages to escape from the now-corrupted Jin Yi Wei. En route, he meets Qiao Hua (Vicki Zhao), daughter of the Justice Escort agency founder (Wu Ma) and kidnaps her. He warns her father to spread false information on his whereabouts or else he have to kill her. At first, Qiao Hua treats Qing Long as enemies but Qing Long has gradually found inner peace and starts to fall in love with her.In the meantime, a female assassin named Tou Tou (Kate Tsui) is sent over to seek and kill Qing Long at all cost. Rounding up the story, is Judge (Wu Chun of the Taiwanese boy band Fahrenheit), the leader of bandits who hunt for valuable goods.

Review: 72 TENANTS OF PROSPERITY 七十二家房客 (2010)

Review: 72 TENANTS OF PROSPERITY 七十二家房客 (2010)

In this quasi-sequel of sorts to the Shaw Brothers classic THE HOUSE OF 72 TENANTS (1973), the movie opens during the 1970s where Ha Kung (Justin Lo) and Shek Kin (Raymond Lam) help the group of 72 tenants of Mongkok's Sai Yeung Choi Street defeating ruthless landlord Tai Chi-Bing (Lam Ka-Tung) and landlady Aunt Three (Charmaine Sheh), while coincidentally rescue Pinky (Fala Chen) from a planned forced marriage to Chief Police Officer Chan (David Lo). Since then, both sworn brothers fall for Pinky and they made a deal by flipping a coin. Ha wins the deal and gets to marry her in the end. Forty years has passed, and the sworn brothers become sworn enemies. Both of them, Ha (Eric Tsang) and Shek Kin (Jacky Cheung), continue to clash against each other in a fierce competition selling mobile phones in the same street they have lived all these years. While they keep competing for each other with their various "dirty tactics" (e.g. using bikini-clad models and mobile massage) to sell more mobile phones, everyone else starts to complain about the recent sudden attack of an unseen culprit throwing bottles of acid from the rooftops. They suspect it has to do with a potential villain in the form of a Mainland property developer (Leung Tin) who is looking forward to buying up the entire Mongkok's Sai Yeung Choi Street and evict the locals. On the other side of the story, Ha's son (Bosco Lam) falls in love with Shek's daughter, Jade (Stephy Tang) who is recently returned from Japan working as an AV assistant director. And there's Ha's daughter, Ha Nui (Linda Chung), a Wing Chun expert who is unexpected falls in love with Shek's son, Kin Chai (Wong Cho-Lam).

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Review: SPLIT SECOND MURDERS 死神傻了 (2009)

Review: SPLIT SECOND MURDERS 死神傻了 (2009)

The movie opens with a cheesy CGI opening montage of an angel of death (Chet Lam) who is particularly bewildered of how come so many people died unexpectedly within the same day. What follows next is a story centre on Luk (6 Wings, of goofy hip-hop group FAMA), a struggling comic-book artist who is about to have a series of bad luck in his life over the course of a single day. He is so dedicated to his work that he's even willing to neglect the presence of his girlfriend Julia (Charmaine Fong) who has grown fed up with his ignorance. When Luk wakes up in the morning, he discovers Julia has left him. At the same time, he also delighted to find out that he might land a job as a comic-book artist in a questionable triad-owned publishing firm, which is manned by a slack-looking editor (MC Jin). That particular day he finds himself in a whirlwind of conflict, usually involving unrelated people who get pissed off at each other before ends up to a varied degree of violence. Among the conflicts are two men fighting in a restaurant over the actual ingredient found in a food; a road rage between an angry laborer and an impatient taxi driver; an unpleasant reunion dinner between two couple of husbands and wives (Stephanie Cheng, Kay Tse, C Kwan and Andy Hui); and of course a triad gang conflict, led by Fan Siu-Wong and Maggie Siu, that ends up getting caught in fire. Apparently, all this happenstance does occur for a reason: it's a price to pay for Luk's ignorant behaviour, and in the end, he does make up for a redemptive solution with a pretty club girl named Fong (Chrissie Chau) and begins to see the error of his ways.

Review: SEVEN 2 ONE 關人7事 (2009)

Review: SEVEN 2 ONE 關人7事 (2009)

SEVEN 2 ONE is a title that refers to the seven separate stories and how they eventually come together to a single event: a convenience store robbery. Told in the RASHOMON-like style, the movie quickly kicks into high gear to the robbery scene, where a masked thief demands to empty the cash from the cashier, Chrissie (Chrissie Chau) before getting into a fight with a loan shark, William (William Chan). As the cashier and two female customers, Carolyn and Wylie (Carolyn Chan and Wylie Chiu) looks on, the loan shark is stabbed from the back and the thief escapes. Then outside the store, a cop named James (James Ho) arrives in a van with a perpetrator, Gary (Gary Ho) at the nick of time, as well as other unidentified characters rounding up the particular event. The movie clocks back in time before the event of the robbery as each flashback tell a story. At the beginning of the story, Yung Yung (Stephanie Cheng) is dating William, her first proper romance with a guy after a lengthy experience being a lesbian. But her former fiery lover, Wylie is very upset with the break-up and demands to meet William face-to-face for clarification. The second story centres on Ling (Elanne Kwong), a beer promoter who is fed up with her useless boyfriend Pak Ho (Pak Ho Chau) for his compulsive addiction towards football gamble. Pak Ho's gambling debts have grown extensively from time to time, which leaves Ling no choice but to decide of becoming a prostitute in order to pay off his debts. However, Pak Ho doesn't want to rely entirely on her goodwill and decides to rob a convenience store to prove to her that he can solve the problem on his own, except for all the wrong reason. Other stories are included the one involving Katy (Katy Kung) and Chrissie who work together in a convenience store. They have grown tired of their pathetic dead-end job, and they are especially angry when the perverted store owner, Leo (Leo Chim) has harassed them sexually. So the ladies plan to fake a robbery as an act of revenge by their boyfriends, Zheng Xi (Izz Tsu) and Xiao Fei (Siu Fay).

Review: TO LIVE AND DIE IN MONGKOK 旺角監獄 (2009)


Review: TO LIVE AND DIE IN MONGKOK 旺角監獄 (2009)

After spending 29 years in prison for slaughtering a rival gang, Fai (Nick Cheung) returns to the same place he grew up at -- Mongkok. But life in Mongkok is no longer the same place he once knew since everything has changed over the years. His former buddy, Porky (Willie Wai) is due for promotion to the head of the triad, and he is currently facing stiff competition from a slick rival named Peter (Patrick Tam). The old-timers in the triad society are urging Porky to make use of Fai to support him for the upcoming promotion, but instead, he sends a couple of lackeys, Kid (Juno Leung) and Ken (Samuel Leung) to take good care of Fai -- namely lavish dinner and some spa time. In the meantime, Porky rather wastes time pursuing mainland prostitute Pamela (Monica Mok) and especially her mentally-challenged sister Penny (Natalie Meng) for sexual conquest. On the other side of the story, Fai is no longer the same fearless younger self he once was. Over the years in the prison, he has developed a severe case of multiple personalities disorder. Sometimes he's a gentle and kind person, and other time he turns into his former raging personality, who he sees an imaginary buddy which goes by the name of Fai Jr. (Tang Tak-Po). From a common point-of-view, it looks like Fai is talking to himself but that doesn't prevent the gang from trying to exploit his legendary hero status. But Fai doesn't really want to go back to the same path he once at, and instead he's more eager to reconnect with his mother, Charity (Bau Hei-Jing) who is suffering from dementia. Rounding up the complication is the temperamental cop Gunner (Liu Kai-Chi), who once responsible for Fai's imprisonment for putting a bullet in his back.

Review: FUTURE X-COPS 未來警察 (2010)


RATING: 0.5/5 

Originally slated for release on late February during the Chinese New Year month, FUTURE X-COPS is pulled off at the last minute because the filmmakers wanted to improve the special effects department. Unfortunately upon its initial release on April, the end result is questionably awful -- not only in term of its rather dated special effects but just about everything else that spells "disastrous". 

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Review: IP MAN 2 葉問2 (2010)


Review: IP MAN 2 葉問2 (2010)

It's a hugely-anticipated Hong Kong movie blockbuster of the year, and expectation is running high for IP MAN 2. But as far as most typical sequel nowadays goes, the movie offers more of the same we have seen previously in the first one. Instead of the first movie's WWII setting and the Japanese occupation of China, we get a sequel's treatment set in the British colony of 1950s Hong Kong.

Review: IRON MAN 2 (2010)


RATING: 2/5

2008's IRON MAN was an unexpected box-office hit during the crowded summer season. That movie was a reasonably entertaining though uneven comic-book movie, which is blessed with witty script and of course a tour de force comeback performance by Robert Downey Jr. in the title role. Not surprisingly, a sequel is immediately greenlit and huge expectation is running very high. But despite the return with most of the same actors and crew, the heavily-anticipated IRON MAN 2 is a bloated mess -- clearly a product of rushed production in favor to cash in the popularity.


Review: ROBIN HOOD (2010)



RATING: 2/5

Interestingly enough, ROBIN HOOD begins life as "Nottingham". No doubt an alternatively fresh title out of the norm, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris's original script revisited that oft-told legend by tweaking the traditional story inside out -- namely portraying the Sheriff of Nottingham in a more sympathetic light and Robin Hood as more of a villain. Not only that, the original idea also recalled that Russell Crowe was set to play dual roles -- both Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham. Strange as it sounds, but it's also undeniably imaginative which is simply a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately all of these exciting ideas were scrapped, and everything is extensively re-written (by genre hack Brian Helgeland). The fresh title itself is also downgraded and sticks to ROBIN HOOD instead. What we have here in the final product, is yet another typical "Robin Hood" incarnation. Never mind the fact that director Ridley Scott attempts to fashion the premise as a prequel and a setup for a sequel -- this so-called revisionist take is a major disappointment in epic proportion.


Review: LEGION (2010)



RATING: 1/5

On paper, LEGION sounds like an entertaining movie of mishmash genre. Angels fighting with machine guns? Now that's what I called "fun". Too bad the final product turns out to be a huge disappointment.


Review: DAYBREAKERS (2010)


RATING: 2/5

Seven years after directing brothers Michael and Peter Spierig's no-budget zombie flick, UNDEAD achieved cult favorites in its native Australian country as well as stateside, they finally granted their long-awaited first major studio picture.


Review: THE CRYING GAME (1992)



RATING: 4/5

Most of the audiences probably never realized how come THE CRYING GAME is such among critics’ darling of the year. It’s the old wash that makes all its compelling whole – love conquers all.


Review: THE NATURAL (1984)


RATING: 2.5/5

This Barry Levinson’s beautifully shot film of THE NATURAL is nevertheless a feast of an eye and has an irresistible fairy tale story, heavily on myth and aided by an irresistible act, lead by Robert Redford who given an iconic performance as Roy Hobbs --- part Shoeless Joe Jackson and part Joe Hardy.


Review: UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL (1996)


RATING: 2/5

Inspired by Alanna Nash’s book Golden Girl, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL features veteran Robert Redford capturing his first romantic lead in six years since HAVANA (that’s a long hiatus). Warren Justice (Redford) plays a seasoned TV reporter who takes the salty newcomer Tally Atwater (Michelle Pfeiffer) under his belt, eagerly to transform her from small-town rube to polished, “hotshot” anchorwoman in a few important lessons. Nevertheless they soon fall for each other.


Review: VERY BAD THINGS (1998)



RATING: 4/5

The suggested title doesn’t just imply for the sake of it, it does it really mean business. Make no mistake, VERY BAD THINGS is a vicious black comedy and definitely not for the squeamish: The film begins the groom-to-be Kyle (Jon Favreau), a regular Joe ripe to be led astray; his fiancee is beautiful Laura (Cameron Diaz), whose perfect wedding-in-the-making is the heart of everything. Kyle’s party-going friends are motormouthed Boyd (Christian Slater), quiet Moore (Leland Orser), brothers Adam (Daniel Stern) and Michael (Jeremy Piven). Before Kyle’s wedding starts, they all planned for a bachelor party and heading down to Las Vegas to have fun: drugs, liquor and sort of those stuff. But everything turns ugly when one of the friends who screw a stripper named Tina (Carla Scott) in the bathroom accidentally causing her death when she is being shoved during their intense lovemaking process against the wall filled with hook. They know it’s a sign of bad thing and no one wants to held responsible. But not before Boyd has an idea and persuades them all to hide the body of the dead stripper and pretend the whole thing never happened. That’s what everybody thinks, and it gets worse after.


Review: WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART (1990)

 
Based on Peter Viertel’s roman a clef, WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART uses the making of a classic adventure movie, THE AFRICAN QUEEN (the one directed by the legendary John Huston) as the setting for a research into the creative process. Apart that, it also tells a story of one persuasive director as told by another and here star-producer-director Clint Eastwood plays a thinly disguised John Huston, only to be renamed as John Wilson.

Review: THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN 荊軻刺秦王 (1999)



RATING: 4.5/5

Hailed as the most expensive independently produced Asian film to date, writer-director Chen Kaige’s historical epic THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN is a monumental achievement of great artistry and a superb grand scale that boosts with massive sets, a casts of thousands and packed with enough star power to set this outstanding film ablaze.

Review: KRAMER vs. KRAMER (1979)



RATING: 4/5

One of the best tearjerker films of the 80s, KRAMER VS. KRAMER is at the ground level, looks essentially suited as a made-for-cable movie that drowned all the expected sappy melodrama. It’s not. Instead, this movie raised above-average level it’s simply emotionally captivating.


Thursday, 13 May 2010

Review: WHITEOUT (2009)


RATING: 1/5

WHITEOUT is as cold as a frozen turkey. That is pretty much sum up for this long-delayed film. Once a hotly-anticipated blockbuster that has an appealing Kate Beckinsale on the central role; a film that is based from Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber's highly-regarded graphic novel and a fascinating premise that revolves around the "first murder in the Antarctica". But that was two and a half years ago, and the film has been collecting dust inside the vault of Warner Bros studio with release dates were constantly reshuffled.


THE BOX (2009)


RATING 0.5/5

ONE word to describe this awfully preposterous thriller: B-O-R-I-N-G. On the surface, though, the premise behind THE BOX looks promising enough: The film takes place in Virginia, 1976 where down-on-their-luck married couple Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) are currently facing some financial crisis. Norma, who is an English teacher, has learned the discount on their son Walter's (Sam Oz Stone) private school tuition is being taken away. In the meantime, Arthur, who works as a technician at Langley Research Center suffers a major blow when he finds out he has failed a critical part of the test required to become an astronaut. With bright future seems highly unlikely, they are about to suffer from worst-case scenario. That is until, one day, Norma receives a mysterious box on their doorstep with a red button inside. Later she is paid a visit by Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), a well-spoken gentleman whose half part of his face is hideously disfigured. Arlington proposes a deal to her: If the red button at the box is pushed within twenty-four hours, both Norma and Arthur will be provided a briefcase filled with one million dollars in cash, tax-free. But there's a catch: Someone else they didn't know in the world will die. And they are not allowed to tell anyone else about the deal. If they do not push the button within the certain time frame, the box will be collected and dropped off at another couple's home. At first, Norma is doubtful about such a strange deal but after consulting with Arthur, they decide to push the button anyway since getting that instant one million dollar cash means they can immediately settle their financial crisis. What follows next, is a series of strange occurrences that both Norma and Arthur are soon finding themselves trapped in a nightmare they can't escape from.

Based on a short story by Richard Matheson's Button, Button which is later adapted for an episode of Twilight Zone, there's no doubt a premise like this is irresistible. Unfortunately writer-director Richard Kelly fails to sustain the viewer's interest beyond its core premise. Running at two-hour length, it's pity to see this film is painfully sluggish and heavily convoluted. Kelly doesn't seem to know what to do with his film, other than throwing everything he can think of -- a mix of sci-fi, horror and paranoid thriller -- that all the mashed-up genre turns up sillier and awfully messy by the minute. Don't even bother expecting this kind of film to be making sense anyway -- nosebleed epidemics, watery portals, otherworldly NASA experiments, randomly weird individuals with weird behaviors -- these ideas are all there filling up the blanks without any satisfying reason.

The cast, in the meantime, is a grave disappointment: Cameron Diaz and James Marsden doesn't make convincing couples anyway, especially given the fact Marsden's obviously baby-faced look making them more suitable as brother-and-sister instead. It's a shame that last year's Oscar nominee Frank Langella is wasted here as the mysterious Arlington Steward.

If anything worth praising about this messy slog, the film remains gorgeous to look at: Steven Poster's picturesque cinematography and Alexander Hammond's groovy production design, coupled with Arcade Fire's perfectly '70s retro score, is simply arresting.

Shame about the rest though: THE BOX is one draggy waste of epic proportion that no doubt it's among the worst film ever seen this year.