January 2011 | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Review: TRANSSIBERIAN (2008)


RATING: 3/5

Brad Anderson's eagerly-awaited return to the big screen since his 2004's critically-acclaimed THE MACHINIST sees him again in fine, if not groundbreaking form with his latest thriller, TRANSSIBERIAN. Obviously paying a tribute to the great Alfred Hitchcock, Anderson hones the master's claustrophobic tradition of train-thrillers that perfectly recalls THE LADY VANISHES (1938) and spins a good old-fashioned suspenseful yarn we never get to see much these days.


Review: SESSION 9 (2001)


RATING: 4/5

One of the creepiest psychological chillers since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1998), writer-director Brad Anderson's SESSION 9 is an astonishing follow-up to his breakthrough, refreshingly romantic comedy NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND.


Sunday, 23 January 2011

Review: THE WRESTLER (2008)


RATING: 4/5

Mention the name of Darren Aronofsky and one thing that comes immediately in mind that he's the director who always remembered for thought-provoking, stylistic excesses ranging from his debut of 1998's Pi to 2000's REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and right down to 2006's THE FOUNTAIN. But Aronofsky's fourth feature, THE WRESTLER, is surprisingly different than what he's usually capable of. That said, this is unlike anything fans or audiences alike who always expect from Aronofsky and it's a small, non-flashy movie that not only serves as his most mature effort to date but also one of the year's best you've ever come across. In addition to Aronofsky's remarkable filmmaking resume, is forgotten lead actor Mickey Rourke whose faltered career briefly revived in 2005's SIN CITY but here he's finally seals the deal making a grand comeback no one could have seen him coming. But Rourke did just that -- he and Aronofsky does sounds unlikely in the first place, but after watching it, both of them are such a perfect match.


Review: THE FOUNTAIN (2006)


RATING: 3/5

Writer-director Darren Aronofsky's long-awaited third feature, THE FOUNTAIN has been long raised numerous curiosity among critics and genre fans alike to see whether this promising wunderkind of PI (1998) snd REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000) is going to shed out another masterpiece-in-the-making. The answer is never quite the extraordinary sci-fi experience Aronofsky has originally envisioned to be. Yes, it's a flawed movie that gets bogged down by a half-baked script and mostly, lacking of genuine emotions. But one can't deny THE FOUNTAIN is also one of the most visually stunning movies ever seen in recent memory, so spellbinding it's really hard to take your eyes off.


Review: FATAL CONTACT 黑拳 (2006)

Review: FATAL CONTACT 黑拳 (2006)

Kong (Wu Jing) is a travelling circus performer from China who's touring Hong Kong to earn a better living. One night, he is spotted by a triad boss Ma (Eddie Cheung) who is particularly impressed with his lightning-fast martial arts performance on the stage and wants Kong to fight for him on the underground boxing circuit. But Kong rejects his offer since he knows underground boxing is illegal and if caught, he will be risking being expelled from Chinese national team. However, Siu Tin (Miki Yeung), a cute-looking girl who has a secret crush with Kong, urges him to take up the underground boxing since the pay is very good. Kong eventually agrees to participate, where he make full use of his martial arts prowess to take down his opponent, while Siu Tin is in charge of managing and negotiating the bet. After an impressive fight, Ma is very pleased with Kong's performance and sets up one of his men, Captain (Ronald Cheng) to offer Kong and Siu Tin a place to stay and some extra cash for other necessities. Captain is a low-level gangster who swindles his way of living by performing magic tricks in front of his fellow colleagues but deep down, he is actually a humble kung fu master. When he noticed the way Kong's fight is not brutal enough, he begins to tutor him how to fight as mean as possible. Both Captain and Kong eventually become good friends, while Kong is subsequently falling hard for Siu Tin. Fight after fight, Kong has won plenty of money but things take a sharp turn when Siu Tin reveals herself as a gold-digger after all. Her so-called love with Kong is actually based on material desire and life is all about being smart and makes a lot of money.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Review: LADY COP & PAPA CROOK 大搜查之女 (2009)

Review: LADY COP & PAPA CROOK 大搜查之女 (2009)

LADY COP & PAPA CROOK involves John Fok (Eason Chan), a triad kingpin responsible for illegal red diesel trade in Greater China. When an oil tanker explodes accidentally during a police raid, he is forced to lay low of his business when he is being investigated by Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese police. He is frustrated enough already for the matter but that is just the beginning. Things become chaotic when his only son, Jimmy (Buzz Chung) is kidnapped. Enter Senior Inspector Maureen Szeto (Sammi Cheng), a short-tempered police detective in charge for the kidnapping case. She is very strict when comes to business but a sore loser when comes to personal life. Her longtime boyfriend, Michael (Conroy Chan) is a struggling artist who spends too much slacking around with his so-called artistic masterpiece. Worst still, she suspects Michael is seeing somebody else and also discovers that she's coincidentally pregnant when she is assigned to the case. In the meantime, John has trouble working with her and the rest of the police force, and so do his fellow triad family members including Uncle Wing (Joe Cheung), Uncle Fok (Felix Lok) and Ron (Wilfred Lau) where they also equally expressing their disapproval. However, John's estranged and heavily pregnant wife, Yammy (Michelle Ye) beg her husband to let the police handle the kidnapping case which ultimately leaves him no choice but to agree in the end. As the cops are confining at John's house to set up for the investigation, John has a troubling agenda of his own -- apparently, he needs to settle a score with his triad rival, Donald Ng (Patrick Tam). But there's something more than just an ongoing feud between two rivalries, as both John and Szeto starts to uncover hidden truth behind the mysterious figure responsible for the kidnapping of John's son.

Review: BIG BULLET 衝鋒隊─怒火街頭 (1996)


RATING: 3/5

After the underrated effort in 1995's MAN WANTED, Benny Chan is finally back for good in this highly-entertaining action blockbuster, BIG BULLET, that puts him straight into the Hong Kong cinematic route as one of the best on-demand action directors around.

Review: MAN WANTED 旺角的天空 (1995)


RATING: 3/5

Years after exploring into different territories including wuxia genre (1993's THE MAGIC CRANE) and Gen-X dramedy (1995's HAPPY HOUR), acclaimed director Benny Chan attempts to bank in the current popularity of Hong Kong's action sub-genre involving divided loyalties of undercover cop (e.g. 1987's CITY ON FIRE, and 1992's HARD-BOILED) in MAN WANTED, and mixes with a dash of love story in the vein of his own 1990's hugely-popular A MOMENT OF ROMANCE. The result is fairly entertaining and gritty enough, but largely overbearing due to its groan-inducing sappy love story.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Review: THE GREEN HORNET (2011)


RATING: 2/5

Based on the characters created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, THE GREEN HORNET originally began life as a radio show in the 1930s before eventually being adapted into two movie serials in the 1940s. But it's not until the arrival of TV's short-lived series (which sadly lasted only one season) of the same name, which starred Van Williams as both the Green Hornet and Britt Reid, and then-unknown Bruce Lee as Kato, has gained mass attraction.



Review: I SAW THE DEVIL 악마를 보았다 (2010)


RATING: 4/5

Revenge has never been this grisly and mean-spirited in I SAW THE DEVIL, the highly-anticipated fifth feature by extraordinary filmmaker Kim Ji-Woon (2008's THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD). Although revenge genre is nothing new and has been countlessly flooded in the Korean cinema ever since the enormous popularity of Park Chan-Wook's "Vengeance" trilogy, Kim Ji-Woon's I SAW THE DEVIL is a unique beast of its own -- and I've gotta admit that this is among the most uncomfortably violent and genuinely intense experiences I've ever seen in a long while.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Review: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD 좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 (2008)


RATING: 3/5

From sports comedy (THE FOUL KING) to horror (A TALE OF TWO SISTERS) and gangster (A BITTERSWEET LIFE), director Kim Ji-Woon is certainly the particular rare breed who has easily slipped from different genre after genre with relative ease and of course with equal success. His fourth effort, in which he dubs as "kimchi western", is certainly his most ambitious project he ever tackled. The result is THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, in which of course, a Korean makeover of Sergio Leone's classic western, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. It's certainly fresh and innovative to see something out of ordinary that you won't normally expect in a Korean film. At the bright side, the film is hugely enjoyable and spectacular enough to warrant this a must-see in theaters for ultimate cinematic experience. On the other side, it's hardly the best thing Kim Ji-Woon manages to craft out in the overall cohesive whole -- the film tends to be sloppy, lackluster and sometimes empty-headed on the narrative front.

Review: BLUE VALENTINE (2010)


RATING: 2.5/5

Derek Cianfrance's romance drama BLUE VALENTINE first gained headline for its notorious NC-17 rating due to the movie's explicit sexual material, in which the studio (Weinstein Company) has aggressively appealed to the MPAA to cut the rating down to R instead. It's certainly a controversial movie, especially with recognizable faces by the likes of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams involved, but really, it's nothing more explicit than an emotional downer that is particularly depressing.


Friday, 14 January 2011

Review: SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011)


RATING: 1/5

2011 kicks off with this year's first major motion picture released in the dead zone of January month, and the (stinking) honor goes to none others than SEASON OF THE WITCH. Not surprisingly, just about everything involving this train wreck of epic proportion is rotten egg (in this case, rotten spell) -- extensive reshoots, numerous date changes, poor test screening preview and equally uninspired trailer. What's more, this is the second time in the row actor Nicolas Cage is nothing but bad news following from his last year's fantasy fiasco, THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE.



Review: LOVE & OTHER DRUGS (2010)


RATING: 2.5/5

After spending decade helming dramatic movies (2008's DEFIANCE, 2006's BLOOD DIAMOND and 1998's THE SIEGE), writer-director Edward Zwick's latest directing effort is certainly a refreshing change of pace. At the first glance, LOVE & OTHER DRUGS is a good old-fashioned romantic comedy that recalled the glory days of its genre in the 1990s, with wonderful onscreen chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Unfortunately, the movie suffers from lack of primary focus from its overall content as Edward Zwick is trying too hard to juggle between a bittersweet romance dramedy and a thoughtful character study about corporate slice-of-life.



Thursday, 13 January 2011

Review: CATFISH (2010)


RATING: 1/5

One word: PATHETIC. That is pretty much sum up for this much-hyped "documentary" cryptically titled as CATFISH. You have to applaud the way how Universal studio has manipulated (most) of the viewers with their effective, yet highly-deceptive trailer and marketing promotion that is simply too hard to resist. "A shattering conclusion". "The best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never directed". Some of these intriguing taglines has no doubt make this "documentary" all the more frightening experience to look out for. Unfortunately, CATFISH is hardly the would-be phenomenon that (most) people expecting to be the next THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999). First thing is, CATFISH is a fake documentary and worst of all, it's not a thriller as the trailer lead us to believe. Instead, it's more of a cautionary drama about the dark side of social networking site.



Sunday, 9 January 2011

Review: TRUE GRIT (2010)


RATING: 2.5/5

When the remake of the 1969's TRUE GRIT was first announced, the ideal combination of the Coen brothers (who previously won multiple Oscars for 2007's NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) and Jeff Bridges (who recently won a long-overdue Best Actor Oscar for last year's CRAZY HEART) has immediately spark a wide speculation among critics and insiders that this highly-anticipated western saga is touted for another multiple Oscar glory come next year. Unfortunately, this remake of TRUE GRIT is surprisingly a major disappointment -- a supposedly good old-fashioned Western genre that tries too hard to impress but ends up as a half-baked result instead.


Review: 127 HOURS (2010)


RATING: 3.5/5

After scoring an astonishing 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for the critically-acclaimed SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008), director Danny Boyle is suddenly on top of the world. Naturally his following movie, 127 HOURS, has critics and insiders already predicted another multiple award-worthy recognitions long before the initial release. Perhaps at this particular reason alone, 127 HOURS turns out to be somehow over-hyped. Make no mistake, it's not that the movie here is bad. In fact, it's a good movie that deserves some award recognitions. Except that it's not a great masterpiece one might hoped for in the first place.


Review: CENTURION (2010)


RATING: 3/5

After hitting considerably low point in the highly-anticipated DOOMSDAY (2008), writer-director Neil Marshall has finally rediscovered his distinctive filmmaking touch in his fourth feature, CENTURION. His first foray into historical action adventure is brutal, gory and above all, an exciting genre picture that most familiar counterparts in the past have failed to deliver (e.g. 2004's KING ARTHUR, 2007's PATHFINDER and 2010's ROBIN HOOD).


Review: DOOMSDAY (2008)


RATING: 2.5/5

Neil Marshall's highly anticipated follow-up to his critically-acclaimed horror movie, THE DESCENT (2005) is certainly his most ambitious project to date -- a nasty homage to the violent, post-apocalyptic epics once made popular by movies like MAD MAX: THE ROAD WARRIOR, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (both 1981), 28 DAYS LATER (2003) as well as blood-soaked medieval epic like FLESH + BLOOD (1985). Suffice to say, DOOMSDAY is the ultimate 80's rewind to the heyday where action is lean, mean, brutal and exploitative. The result is definitely a good news for fans out there clamoring for taste of bloody thrills, but too bad it's also a half-baked effort that doesn't exactly live up to its anticipation.