Sunday, 27 February 2011
Mention the name David O. Russell, he's the unique kind of director who made a career out of quirky comedies (1994's SPANKING THE MONKEY, 1996's FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, 1999's THREE KINGS, and 2004's I HEART HUCKABEES). But who could have thought that his longtime comeback since that I HEART HUCKABEES flop, turns out to be his radical departure of the usual norm? His fifth feature, THE FIGHTER, is Russell's surprisingly toned-down directorial effort. It's certainly an odd move but it turns out that THE FIGHTER is also his most mature and best movie to date.
After a colossal misfire of the sci-fi actioner JUMPER (2008), director Doug Liman makes a stunning comeback with FAIR GAME. It's good to see him return to the espionage thriller territory that he's famous for -- 2002's THE BOURNE IDENTITY and 2005's MR. AND MRS. SMITH -- but unlike those slickly-packaged and action-oriented movies, his latest espionage take is decidedly more grounded and realistic. That said, anyone who expecting Doug Liman injects the cool factor of a spy movie will be sorely disappointed here. All those obligatory car chases, gunfights and fisticuffs usually expected in that kind of movie are noticeably missing here but Doug Liman has brilliantly traded his usual energetic visual filmmaking style with a John le Carre-type that leans toward on the more intellectual approach. The result is a vividly intense look of dirty politics and riveting human drama of a political marriage on the verge of a breaking point. Simply to put, FAIR GAME is one of the best spy movies ever seen in recent memory -- the kind that evokes the particular genre's finest moments during the 70s (e.g. 1976's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN).
Saturday, 26 February 2011
Ballet has never looked this wickedly eerie in Darren Aronofsky's highly-anticipated BLACK SWAN, a worthy companion genre piece to his award-winning 2008's wrestling drama THE WRESTLER. Whereas THE WRESTLER marked the director's usual flamboyant visual style into an unlikely subdued restraint, BLACK SWAN is his polar opposite -- dark and unsettling in both subject and tone. In fact, the movie is leaning towards more into Aronofsky's significantly earlier masterpieces (1998's PI and 2000's REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) -- something that die-hard fans have been long waiting for. On the other side, it's also a vividly realized character study about a young woman's overachieving struggle to succeed in a cutthroat and highly-demanding profession she has chosen, which in this case, the world of ballet dancing. This alone, thanks to a tour de force compelling performance by Natalie Portman, BLACK SWAN is simply the kind of movie with enough curiosity values hard to be missed.
Widely advertised as a follow-up of sorts to the 2009's surprise hit TAKEN, UNKNOWN is looking set to be another surefire winner for Liam Neeson. But anyone, especially action fans, are expecting another high-octane action thriller in the similar template of TAKEN will be sorely disappointed by the more Hitchcockian-like territory that borders more on psychological suspense. Blame it on the misleading marketing strategy (well, that isn't new after all, considering Hollywood big-studio system loves to deceive viewers) but even the movie is actually geared as a suspense thriller, it fails miserably on (almost) all counts.
Sunday, 20 February 2011
The title of THE STOOL PIGEON refers as informant, and at the beginning, we learn the fate of an informant Jabber (Liu Kai-Chi) who ends up being exposed his true identity after a botched operation goes awry. Jabber became so paranoid and scared stiff that he spends most of his time looking insane and lives like a beggar. Inspector Don Lee (Nick Cheung), who is responsible for the case, feels guilty of causing Jabber's unlikely consequence. A year later, he is out to recruit a new informant and this is where a jailed driver Ghost Jr. (Nicholas Tse) comes in. At first Ghost Jr. is reluctant to join Don, but he forced to do so especially after he discovered his sister works a prostitute to pay off their dead father's debt. With a handsome reward of money, Ghost Jr. is required to work undercover to infiltrate a gang of jewel thieves lead by Tai Ping (Keung Ho-Man) and Barbarian (Lu Yi). But it's not without a series of complications when Tai Ping's girlfriend Dee (Kwan Lunmei) ends up falling in love with Ghost Jr.
Fifty years ago, THE HOUSEMAID (1960) was widely regarded as one of the finest Korean movies ever made. That is why when a remake is announced, the buzz is quickly generated like a spreading wildfire. Writer-director Im Sang-Soo has definitely take pride to make this modern version of THE HOUSEMAID into something worth respecting for. The result is an elegantly-paced, glossy erotic thriller that we rarely see such genre cinema these days.
GALLANTS begins with a bespectacled loser named Cheung (Wong Yau-Nam) who's been a constant subject of bully working at a real-estate company. Nobody seems to respect him at all and renders him as a useless being good for nothing. Which is why his boss decides to send him in a thankless task where he is required to go to a small village and secure a remote rural property for redevelopment. The particular property happens to be a rundown teahouse manned by ex-martial artists Dragon (Chen Kuan-Tai) and Tiger (Leung Siu-Lung), two faithful students to their comatose master, Master Law (Teddy Robin Kwan). Apparently for the last thirty years, Dragon and Tiger haven't been giving up hope to await his master to wake up from his coma following from a legendary duel gone awry. Once upon a time, the teahouse is used to be Master Law's famous martial art school nicknamed the "Gate of Law". The problem arises once Cheung has unexpectedly causing trouble in the small village, and getting himself involved with a scheming bad guy named Mang (MC Jin). Coincidentally, Mang happens to be a neighbouring kid Cheung used to beat him up and naturally Mang sees this as his opportunity to use him at all cost. Then there's a local martial-arts competition, organised by Master Pong (Chan Wai-Man) who is actually looking forward to conquering the Gate of Law. Dragon and Tiger refuse to take up the challenge, while Cheung himself has been desperately wanted to learn a couple of martial-art techniques so he can help them defending the teahouse. All that change when Master Law finally awake from the coma, but it's not without a series of complications ensues -- he happens to lose his mind and mistaken Cheung as both Dragon and Tiger.
Sammo Hung stars as Fat Tung, a righteous pedicab driver who falls in love with a local baker girl Ping (Nina Li Chi). But the problem is Ping's master baker, Fong (Suen Yuet) happens to fall in love with her as well. On the other side of the story, Fat Tung's best friend nicknamed Malted Candy (Max Mok) happens to fall in love at first sight with a lovely girl named Siu Chui (Fennie Yuen). But he doesn't realise that Siu Chui is actually a prostitute, who later coincidentally slept with Malted Candy's playful friend, San Cha Cake (Lowell Lo) while visiting a brothel. A problem arises when a sleazy pimp named Master 5 (John Shum) finds out that Siu Chui tries to quit prostitution and ends up ordering his trusted high-kicking thug (Billy Chow) to locate the girl and killed anyone who involved with her escape.
Thriller about an obsessed stalker/fan is nothing new in the genre cinema, with 1996's Hollywood's THE FAN, which starred Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes, quickly came to mind. But Kim Sang-Man's much-anticipated follow-up to his 2008 debut in GIRL SCOUT, is a slickly-made accomplished thriller that benefited from an airtight script, excellent cast and top-notch suspenseful moments. To put long story short, look no further than MIDNIGHT FM, which has made quite a splash at the top of the box-office in South Korea ever since its release on October 14.
2004's MAN ON FIRE and 2008's TAKEN is given a South Korean makeover with the country's one of the most anticipated movie events of the year, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE. On the surface, this kind of brutal revenge thriller is nothing new at all but clever marketing gimmick (promoted as Won Bin's star vehicle in his much-anticipated showcase as a "masculine" action star; and of course director Lee Jeong-Beom's brilliant exploitation of using the ever-popular Hollywood template of the aforementioned) has propelled this movie straight to No.1 South Korean box-office hit of 2010 with a healthy 6.2 million won ever since its theatrical release in August 4. As good as the movie sounds, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE is decidedly a mixed result -- an overlong revenge thriller that bogged down by its heavy-handed executions.
(bullying) is a common sight in Japanese schools, and acclaimed writer-director Tetsuya Nakashima's controversial adaptation of Kanae Minato's bestselling mystery novel takes the viewers on a whirlwind rollercoaster ride of poetic justice, revenge and perverse society where everything is all about nihilistic and uncomfortably cruel. The result is CONFESSIONS, which in turn, became a phenomenal sensation in Japan. The movie was also a huge box-office and critical hit and has already been selected as the country's official entry in the Best Foreign Film category of the upcoming 83rd Annual Academy Awards. Not only that the movie has received (almost) universal praises with a great degree of success in the film festivals around the world. So the biggest question is: what makes CONFESSIONS such a praiseworthy effort? Upon watching this with a high hope, I find this with a mixed feeling. It's not really that good as (most) critics expected in the first place. It's certainly a bold piece of work that earns its reputation as among the most disturbing genre movies ever made in the recent memory, except it's not in a very positive manner. In the end, CONFESSIONS ends up as among the most overrated movie of the year.
The little British movie that can. Who could have thought that a movie about speech impediment and a character (in this case, King George VI) who has a stammer, managed to be both crowd-pleasing and inspiring at the same time? In THE KING'S SPEECH, this Tom Hooper's period drama does just that with a striking chord -- it's this year's among best movie you've ever come across. Not only that, this is also the movie that solidifying Colin Firth as one of the best British actors of his generation since his Oscar-nominated turn in 2009's A SINGLE MAN.
When a trio of inept Mainland robbers (among them are Collins, played by Lam Suet) botched a jewellery heist, a chain of violent event strikes in a matter of short time. Apparently, Collins make an escape into a nearby apartment building, inadvertently leading the police to the hideout of the second gang of criminals (led by Keiji Sato) who happened to be a much more vicious killing squad. Nevertheless, a shootout massacre ensues, leaving plenty of police officers dying mercilessly in the wake. Leading the case is the "O" department, headed by a no-nonsense, by-the-book sergeant Ken (Simon Yam) who is working hard to rectify the situation. His team is consisting of his mischievous lieutenant Sam (Lau Ching-Wan), veteran Ben (Hui Siu-Hung), and two rookies Macy (Ruby Wong) and Jimmy (Raymond Wong). While they are on the case, a minor love triangle occurs between Ken and Sam, who both shared the same affection with their key witness, a lovely waitress named Mandy (Yoyo Mung). Apparently, three of them were childhood friends, and Mandy is particularly fond of Ken. However, Ken spends too much time concentrating on his job and doesn't realise that Mandy has fallen in love with him. Still, Sam, who also have a crush for Mandy, decides to become a cupid of sorts and masterminded a series of plans in hope to hook up both Ken and Mandy together.
Saturday, 19 February 2011
Once upon a time, Ivan Reitman is used to be making some of the '80s most beloved comedies (MEATBALLS, STRIPES, GHOSTBUSTERS and TWINS). Then came a series of high-profile misfires during the '90s (JUNIOR and SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS) and '00s (EVOLUTION and MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND). Now he's back into the directing chair after five-years' hiatus since his MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND debacle, and it's quite a surprise he chooses to tackle a raunchy romantic comedy that could have helmed by Judd Apatow instead. I mean, seriously, at the age of 64, Ivan Reitman should have gone something more mature. But unfortunately he feels strangely out of place here because everything about NO STRINGS ATTACHED (it was once called as FUCK BUDDIES) trying so hard to be hip and so today turns to be such a wannabe instead. No, make that a big wannabe.
SHAOLIN focuses on a ruthless and cunning warlord named General Hou Jie (Andy Lau) who only cares about expanding his iron-fist power of conquering a neighbouring land across China. He's a kind of arrogant person who doesn't mind gunning down an injured enemy and becomes ferocious whoever tries to question his authority. That person turns out to be Cao Man (Nicholas Tse), Hou's second-in-command and protege who mostly does the dirty work. Cao remembers what his mentor used to say to him: “If one doesn’t kill off his enemy when he has the upper hand, he’ll be dead". And that particular word of wisdom has encouraged him to turn the table against him at the least suspecting moment. During a meeting between Hou and his sworn brother over a power struggle goes awry, Cao Man takes his opportunity to betray him at all cost. As a result, Hou's precious daughter ends up dead and his wife (Fan Bingbing) hates him very much. Riddled with guilt, Hou turns to Shaolin temple, the sacred place he has previously causing trouble earlier on, and seeks refuge there. Most of the Shaolin monks, including two seniors (Wu Jing, Xing Yu) are not particularly welcomed his presence but their old master strongly believes that Hou ends up at Shaolin to seek redemption one way or another. Under the guidance of an outcast Shaolin cook (Jackie Chan), Hou is slowly turning himself into a good person. Hou is even gone as far as shaving his head and vows to become a monk. In the meantime, Cao has finally gained the upper hand and starts to conspire with foreigners looking to prey on the Chinese. In exchange of his gratitude, he gets an abundant supply of Gatling guns.
Remember how M. Night Shyamalan's post-apocalyptic thriller called THE HAPPENING (2008) used to be one of the most intriguing summer movies of the year but turned out to be a complete cop-out after all? History repeats itself in this latest post-apocalyptic thriller called VANISHING ON 7TH STREET. But instead of M. Night Shyamalan, the director turns out unexpectedly to be Brad Anderson. Brad Anderson, is of course, a critically-acclaimed director who made quite a number of interesting projects which are ranging from 2001's SESSION 9, 2004's THE MACHINIST and 2008's TRANSSIBERIAN. You can say he's a master of suspense, but for his latest feature here, VANISHING ON 7TH STREET turns out to be his worst movie he's ever directed so far.
Attached a brand name that goes by "James Cameron", and (everyone) starts to take notice. That is exactly what SANCTUM tries to sell to the viewers. No doubt with Cameron himself involved as one of the executive producers, and everything else that stamped his trademark -- underwater and that innovative 3D camera technology previously employed in AVATAR (2009) and RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010) -- it's definitely hard to ignore the existence of SANCTUM. But beyond that, the movie is more of a marketing gimmick and the end product itself is merely your typical underwater action-adventure coupled with uninspired direction, hackneyed script, lame characters and surprisingly lack of thrills.
Monday, 7 February 2011
When the trailer is first shown to public, the marketing campaign surrounding over the 1972 Charles Bronson remake of THE MECHANIC which starred none others than Jason Statham, looks like an obvious pitch for a third sequel for THE TRANSPORTER. Which is of course, anything that has the name of "Jason Statham" and a premise reminiscent of THE TRANSPORTER, it's no surprising that THE MECHANIC is the same-old action formula that we have seen countless times before. But unlike THE TRANSPORTER which has its fair share of guilty-pleasure entertainment moment, THE MECHANIC is more of a slow-burning slog. More on that later.
In an attempt to recreate the "(insert pun) from hell" sub-genre once populated in the '90s by the likes of PACIFIC HEIGHTS (1990), BAD INFLUENCE (1990), THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992) and UNLAWFUL ENTRY (1992), Finnish director Antti Jokinen's Hollywood debut, THE RESIDENT has the blessing of a talented cast comprising of two-time Academy Award winners Hilary Swank (1999's BOYS DON'T CRY and 2004's MILLION DOLLAR BABY), Jeffrey Dean Morgan and screen legend Christopher Lee and a team of first-rate production crews. But in what could have been a potentially good thriller-in-the-making, THE RESIDENT turns out to be shockingly dull in almost all departments. In fact, the movie is bad enough that the studio has decided to discard a would-be wide theatrical release and dumped it into direct-to-DVD market instead.
Saturday, 5 February 2011
A group of handpicked convicts -- Tung Ming-Sun (Sammo Hung), Szeto (Charlie Chin), Dai Kong (Cheung Kwok Keung), Dai Hoi (Billy Lau), Yun (Yuen Woo-Ping), Yu (Corey Yuen) and among others -- are led by their lieutenant (Lam Ching-Ying) on a deadly mission deep into the jungle of Vietnam to destroy a large cache of weapons left somewhere after the war. If the convicts succeed the mission, they will granted a freedom and pocketed US$200,000 as well. But the mission is cancelled at the last-minute just after they parachute down from the military plane. Even though the lieutenant knows about this, he insists on continuing the mission. Once they landed into the jungle, they are assisted by a trio of female Cambodian guerrillas (lead by newcomer Joyce Godenzi) to proceed with the mission. En route, they encounter Man Yen Chieh (Yuen Biao), a slick pirate who later assisting them through the thick of the jungle and eventually joining them for the fight.
Louis Koo is Bob, a timid-looking debt collector working at a dead-end job and has a bad history of not fulfilling his promise. Bob's son Kit (Presley Tam) is about to fly to Australia to be with his mother, and Bob promises to meet him at the airport. However, Kit is doubtful about Bob's so-called "promise" in which he knows it will end up with nothing but disappointment. But this time, Bob will make it to the airport no matter what and proves to his son that he is a responsible father after all. He seems to be fulfilling his promise, that is until he is distracted by a random phone call asking for help. The nervous caller appears to be a woman named Grace Wong (Barbie Hsu, of TV's Meteor Garden) who claimed she's been kidnapped by a mysterious black-clad bad guy (Liu Yee) who threatens and kills her if she doesn't find way to connect her younger brother who has the bad guy's "stuff". At first, Bob thinks she must be making a prank call but after a few while, her tearful claim becomes so convincing that he agrees to help her anyway. So he starts by trying to persuade a passing traffic cop, Fai (Nick Cheung) for help, only to be distracted by some other situation. Soon Bob finds himself caught in the middle of unknown danger as he struggles to help Grace Wong, while being pursuit by local authorities while doing his best to fulfil the promise to see his son in the airport at the other end.
On the night of Christmas celebration, Inspector Lau Ching Hei (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and his partner, Bong (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are on the case to tail and arrest the suspected serial rapist in which the girl was brutally victimized. During the arrest, Hei has particularly teaches the rapist a lesson by pounding his head violently with a heavy object. But the night becomes especially scarred when Bong discovered his girlfriend, Rachel (Emme Wong), in which they had an ugly quarrel earlier on, dead in her bed from an apparent suicide. Completely devastated, Bong abused himself into nonstop alcohol ever since then. Three years later, Bong has already quit the police force and becomes private investigator. In the meantime, Hei is leading a good life with his fiancee Susan (Xu Jinglei) but it's not until her wealthy father (Yueh Hua) and his dedicated servant (Wan Yeung-Ming) are brutally murdered. Susan becomes delusional and suspecting that someone may be stalking her. Hei figures she is overreacted, and often giving her sedatives to keep her calm. Still he proceed to investigate the gruesome murder but so far there's no progress whatsoever. Susan, in turn, hires Bong to follow up on her father's murder and tackles the case along with the pain-in-the-neck cop Tsui (Chapman To). As Bong investigates the case further, he soon discovers that the killer is someone he can't believe in his own eyes.
Touted as Asia's answer to the phenomenally popular TV's Sex and the City, Tsui Hark's (yet) another "comeback" film, ALL ABOUT WOMEN, sees the once-mighty filmmaker revives back the populist comedies he used to make them so successfully back in the '80s and the '90s. At the surface level, the movie's plot sounds promising -- it centers on three different women in contemporary Beijing as they are struggling their daily life searching for l-o-v-e.
As the title suggests, it centres around Ah Long (Chow Yun-Fat), a construction worker who has a great relationship with his young son, Porky (Wong Kwan-Yuen). Back then, Ah Long used to be a rascal who likes to race motorcycle but after injuring his leg badly, he is forced to give up his passion. His best friend, Dragon (Ng Man-Tat), on the other hand, keeps pursuing him back into motorcycle racing since he knows Ah Long's job doesn't earn enough money. Then one day in the school, Porky gets a golden opportunity to be auditioned for a role in a commercial, in which his cycling performance is heavily impressed by the director, Sylvia (Sylvia Chang). Little does Porky knows that Sylvia is actually his long-lost mother but Ah Long has once told him before his mother already died a long time ago. Ten years ago, Ah Long and Sylvia used to love each other and she's even pregnant with his child. But after Sylvia witnessed Ah Long sleeping with another woman, she is threatened to leave. She eventually flies to the U.S. with her mother, while Ah Long was sent to jail due to an illegal racing. As Ah Long and Sylvia meet again, he is attempting to rekindle their past relationship while Sylvia gradually learns that Porky is actually her son all along.
Shing (Aaron Kwok), once a handsome ladies' man has become a no-good, abusive father who doesn't realise that his family is about to fall apart. His battered wife, Lin (Charlie Young) plans on leaving him anytime soon since she finds Shing doesn't express much love to her like he used to. That leaves their son Lok-Yun (Goum Ian Iskandar), an innocent kid caught in the middle of the family wreckage, who only wishes that his father and his mother will get along. Still, there's no doubt one can blame Lin for running away. Shing leaves her no dignity, especially he's going as far as embarrassing his wife at the public and even hits her, before finally locking her up inside the bedroom. To make things worst, Shing is also heavily in debt and that Lin has been sick and tired of being responsible for paying his debt. When she sees her opportunity, she leaves Shing and Lok-Yun behind. Angry and frustrated, Shing's life becomes increasingly off-balance: he loses his job, the loan sharks are pursuing him to pay up and he's nearly penniless. Still, he has a loyal son by his side but as each day passing by, the father-and-son bond between Shing and Lok-Yun threatens to fall apart as well, especially when Shing forces him to commit stealing.
In the midst of a gang war in Thailand between rival triads Yam (Yam Sai-Koon) and Fong (Fong Ping), their respective hitmen, Jack (Leon Lai) and Martin (Lau Ching-Wan) are in charge to protect their bosses while eliminating each other. During a rainy night in a cheap hotel, they end up badly wounded in the latest shootout. With Jack and Martin become disposable, the two triads finally make a truce and want to start a new life as business partners. For Martin, his badly wounded legs are forced to be amputated and his girlfriend (Fiona Leung) have to whore herself in order to take care of him. His girlfriend feels sad about his condition and wants to go back to Hong Kong to settle some old score with his former boss. In the meantime, Jack is now working as a hard labour in a Thai icehouse to support his badly scarred girlfriend (Yoyo Mung) after the burning incident inside the hospital. As their bosses celebrate their glory of making money together, Jack and Martin are vow for revenge to take them down at all cost.
Chinese New Year's trend of high-tech action fave continues with 2000 A.D., another big-budget Hong Kong production that tries to catapult the current box-office success of TOKYO RAIDERS. On the surface, though, this movie sounds more promising especially with the much-anticipated return of director Gordon Chan, who previously helmed the multiple award-winning BEAST COPS (1998). But like TOKYO RAIDERS, the movie is all high-gloss but ultimately shallow deep within.