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

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Review: WU XIA 武術 (2011)

RATING: 2.5/5

Opened to favorable reviews at the recent Cannes Film Festival, Peter Chan's WU XIA is an interesting if uneven mishmash that mixes old-fashioned martial art genre and CSI-style whodunit -- all in the manner of David Cronenberg's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005). This movie also marked a stunning comeback for Donnie Yen since IP MAN 2, whose past two highly-anticipated efforts (2010's LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN and 2011's THE LOST BLADESMAN) are nothing more than disappointingly overblown spectacles. Except this time don't expect the kind of action-packed vibe you normally expect from a Donnie Yen movie. Such result might disappoint a lot of fans but those who are adventurous enough to game for something different, WU XIA is surprisingly quite a unique movie to watch out for.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

POV ROUNDUP: Top 10 Donnie Yen's Best Fighting Scenes!

With WU XIA currently showing in theaters, it's hard to believe that the martial-art superstar Donnie Yen is already 48 years old but he still packed a lot of punches. In addition to that, I have compiled some of his most impressive fight scenes he's ever committed during his span of almost three-decades old career in showbiz. Here are my Top 10 below:

This is the first time where two of among legendary Hong Kong martial-art superstar: Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen squared off against each other in an exciting duel.

One of Donnie Yen's most popular movies. The most memorable scene is of course, the amazing martial-art set piece atop the burning poles.

This is the movie that brought the then-unknown Donnie Yen into Hong Kong stardom in his memorable duel against Jet Li.

Donnie Yen might not be a lead star here, but his supporting presence made this exciting movie worth a price of admission alone. Need proof? Check out his intense duel with Cung Le in which they squared off against each other in the crowded marketplace before they engage in a stunning parkour scene.

The phenomenally popular martial-art movie that cemented Donnie Yen as the most sought-after action stars in Asian countries. His earnest portrayal as Master Ip Man was widely considered as his best performance yet, and his action sequences are just as exciting. The movie's most memorable scene in which he squared off against 10 Japanese martial-art students in a dojo became so popular it had subsequently being parodied into many movies ever since.

Check out his video here.

Donnie Yen's final duel with Sammo Hung is certainly a must-see. Who could have thought that the portly 59 years old Sammo Hung still fights like a tiger?

Check out his video here.

Here they go again: Donnie Yen vs. Sammo Hung. This time they squared off atop a round table in a battle of lightning-fast fisticuffs while avoiding from falling off the ground.

No doubt the marketing gimmick behind the highly-anticipated LEGEND OF THE FIST: THE RETURN OF CHEN ZHEN turned out to be a shocking disappointment. But the opening scene is a masterstroke of exhilarating action set piece. Here, Donnie Yen has again demonstrated his sheer agility in a parkour scene where he's out in the battlefield trying to take down a small group of German soldiers.

2. SPL (2005)

Donnie Yen's intense fight with Sammo Hung was one thing. But the movie was better known for his memorable baton vs. knife duel in the back alley against the quick-moving Wu Jing. It's certainly one hell of a breathtaking moment.

Check out his video here.

This is the movie where Donnie Yen pioneered a certain martial-art technique called "MMA" or better known as "Mixed Martial Art". This is best seen in the memorable mano-a-mano duel against Collin Chou where they fight off against each other while adapting different martial-art techniques.

Check out his video here.

Sunday, 17 July 2011



There's an old saying that every beginning must come to an end. For the past 10 years since HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (2001), the HARRY POTTER franchise has become the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time with the seven movies released grossing $6.3 billion worldwide. That was a tremendous achievement. And here it is -- the long-awaited epic conclusion (everyone) have been waiting for, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2. From the look of the trailer itself, this closing chapter is destined to be a spectacular cinematic experience ever put together unlike any previous HARRY POTTER series had done before. I mean, why not? Isn't that the purpose why Warner Bros. have decided to split HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS into two parts in the first place? While the first part shown last year was understandably leaned more into setup and character-driven drama, it is natural that (everyone) are expecting a spectacular and satisfying payoff in the second part. Frankly, I was pretty convinced that returned director David Yates and regular series screenwriter Steve Kloves will have little problem delivering the big promise here. After all, save the best for the last must be their ultimate motto here. But I I regret to say this -- HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 is shockingly disappointed.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Review: LARRY CROWNE (2011)


When was the last time you saw Tom Hanks in a feel-good, upbeat nature? As far as I recalled, that was way back in 2004 when he did THE TERMINAL, a heartwarming dramedy directed by Steven Spielberg. And frankly, that was also the last time I admired Tom Hanks' live-action acting performance. Not even his two high-profile projects in Ron Howard's THE DA VINCI CODE (2006) and ANGELS & DEMONS (2009), aren't much of a lasting impression. When he announced his next movie project called LARRY CROWNE, I was anticipating his long-awaited comeback to the familiar good-natured role he always popularly known for in the past. What's more, LARRY CROWNE seems to be a perfect antidote to a summer filled with R-rated raunchy comedies. Unfortunately, I was shocked to discover his latest movie is very disappointing. So what went wrong? More on that later.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Review: MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS (2011)


Ooo... Jim Carrey + Penguins = good formula for a potential hit comedy? I mean, why not? Once-bankable comedy superstar Jim Carrey surely desperate needs a hit. After all, when was the last time you have watched a good Jim Carrey movie these days? Not even his so-called "comeback" in YES MAN (2008) and A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2009) are enough to warrant public attention like he used to in his glory days. Even his last movie, a dramedy called I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS (2009) went mostly unseen in mainstream theaters. And so, here he is yet again. Firstly, I would like to say MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS is adorable enough, thanks to those undeniably cute penguins. It's also a decent Jim Carrey movie, but not in the way you will expect him back in his true form.

Review: KHURAFAT (2011)

RATING: 2.5/5

Drawing inspirations from those horror movies made in Thailand, Syamsul Yusof's KHURAFAT (or "BLASPHEMOUS" in English) is his first attempt to tackle such genre. The result is a decent, if utterly formulaic horror thriller that still managed to rake a lot of money with RM8.08 million in the local box-office.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Review: KL GANGSTER (2011)

RATING: 2.5/5

As of this writing, Syamsul Yusof's KL GANGSTER has upstaged NGANGKUNG (RM8.18 million) to become the highest-grossing local movie in the history with a whopping RM11.6 million after being screened in 81 theaters nationwide for the past three weeks. What a towering achievement for a local movie! Box office aside, KL GANGSTER is rare action picture that actually succeeds on delivering entertaining showcase of fight scenes and violence rivaled to those we normally seen in Thailand or Hong Kong martial art movies.

Review: 2 ALAM (2010)

RATING: 0.5/5

Publicity campaign has never been this grossly overhyped for a locally-made movie in the Malaysian film industry. That local movie is 2 ALAM (or "TRANSVERSE" in English). How grossly overhyped for this movie? Let's see -- First-time producer Datuk Dr Rozmey has made public that 2 ALAM which is about a transvestite who commits suicide, would collect RM40 million at the box-office! He even went overboard by making such preposterous announcements via local newspaper that 30 million Malaysians have sworn to watch 2 ALAM when it opens in theaters, which was shown in all 700 screens in the country! If that's not preposterous enough, he also claimed that cinema operators would postpone the blockbuster release of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 during the November 2010 release to make way for 2 ALAM instead. And for all the extravagant acclaims desperately trying to generate public interest for this movie, I was really curious about 2 ALAM. Was it really worth the self-proclaimed hype? The answer is a big "NO".

Sunday, 3 July 2011

POV ROUNDUP: Top 10 Worst Comic-Book Movies Of All Time!

Recently this summer, there were two comic-book movies failed to impress the critics as well as box-office terms. And there were none others than DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT and GREEN LANTERN (both in which you can read my reviews here and here). Those two critical and box-office disappointments immediately reminded me how I have to endure poorly adapted comic-book movies I used to watch in the past. Here I have compiled a list of my "Top 10 Worst Comic-Book Movies Of All Time" below. Oh, do feel free to comment as well!

Who could have thought that the filmmakers behind the ill-fated BARB WIRE figured it's a classy way to adapt the Dark Horse's cult graphic novel with a CASABLANCA (1942)-like central theme as major inspiration? Yeah, no doubt it's such an insult to that classic Hollywood movie. In short, BARB WIRE tries hard to be serious but really, it's all cheese and gratuitous at best. How gratuitous? Let's just say BARB WIRE is less focus for the source material than an obvious sexploitation to showcase Pamela Anderson Lee and her (ahem) infamous huge silicon breasts.

Okay, so BATMAN FOREVER has winded up becoming the second highest-grossing movies of the year (with an outstanding $184 million in the box-office) behind TOY STORY. That gotta be something right? Unfortunately this third installment of BATMAN franchise marked the beginning of the downfall of say, everything that involved here. Warner Bros. had certainly made a grave mistake by enlisting director Joel Schumacher to picture their movie as colorful as those high-camp value previously seen in the 1960s TV series starring Adam West -- all for the sake to please the mainstream audiences. Which was too bad because die-hard fans of the previous two Tim Burton-directed movies and comic-book enthusiasts became very disappointed the way Schumacher had single-handedly ruined the BATMAN franchise -- cheesy direction, awfully generic plot, and cardboard characters (along with one of the worst Batman/Bruce Wayne roles ever seen -- Val Kilmer, that is!)

Cheerfully ridiculous, shallow, uninspired, tedious and above all... painfully lame. That was how I would describe for the supposedly much-anticipated sequel, FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER. Hey, it is supposed to be a crossover extravaganza -- Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer -- it's like (every) comic-book fans' dream comes true! But it's such a pity that director Tim Story and his company failed to utilize such huge potential and instead, turned everything into an immature kids' movie which had shamelessly worn its PG-rating like a badge of honor. Coupled with paper-thin plot and equally shallow characters, FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SILVER was such a disappointment that the studio made their decision to reboot the franchise from square one.

You know, of all the popular comic-book characters, turning THE PUNISHER into a big-screen adaptation was supposed to be a less complicated task when compared to others. So why was it so difficult to make this movie into a straight-out, uncompromising revenge drama? Apparently writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh as well as his co-writer Michael France figured it would be a smarter way to come up a meaty story than just a series act of bloody vengeance. And what did we get here? A unnecessarily long-winded plot where we had to endure watching Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) elaborating all sort of sneaky plan to fool around with the bad guys. Oh, wait -- there's more! He had to deal with a bunch of eccentric neighbors which includes the geeky Spacker Dave (Ben Foster); overweight opera lover Mr. Bumpo (John Pinette) and unlucky-in-love waitress Joan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos)! Talk about so-called variety here. That's not all -- Thomas Jane's perfectly-brooding role as the title role wasn't much of a lasting impression and then there's the pathetic-looking John Travolta as the main villain. Last but not least, whoever thought was wise to change the setting for THE PUNISHER from its original gritty New York City to sunny Tampa seriously needed to get their heads checked.

The gratuitously overblown of THE PUNISHER (2004) had certainly resulted the studio to reboot the franchise all over again. And here it was -- PUNISHER: WAR ZONE which I would happily said, sported an appropriately-sounding title and a hard R-rating that promised the kind of in-your-face violence die-hard fans had been waiting for! Too bad Lexi Alexander's version was yet another huge disappointment of failing to bring satisfying result for THE PUNISHER movie. Yes, it was very violent but all the extreme gore were treated in such cheesy way it's hard to take them seriously. In another word, PUNISHER: WAR ZONE was more of a dumbed-down action movie. Forgettable characters all around (not even the perfectly-brooding appearance of Ray Stevenson as the title role made an impact here) and haphazard direction by Lexi Alexander who tries so hard to helm the picture aimed strictly for the fanboy base and she did it all for the wrong reasons.

Claimed as "the special effects movie event of the year", SPAWN was no doubt one of the most-anticipated summer movies of 1997. Hey, it's based on Todd McFarlane's bestselling comic-book which was also very popular among those comic-book enthusiasts. But the movie version was entirely different story altogether. SPAWN ended up a huge disappointment all the way from poorly-constructed plot, forgettable characters, uninspired direction and above all -- terribly overblown special effects that looked more cheesy than stunning outcome. Not surprisingly, SPAWN was a massive flop in the box-office and decade of attempting to reboot the franchise had been suffering the case of "development hell" until today.

Ben Affleck as the blind and tormented Matt Murdock/Daredevil? Wow, what an odd choice! And so do the awkward casting of Michael Clarke Duncan as the cigar-chomping criminal kingpin Wilson Fisk (he's black, but he is supposed to be white in the comic-book version!) and Jennifer Garner as the leather-clad ninja Elektra who hardly look every bit of the comic-book character we have seen before. Writer-director Mark Steven Johnson's version of DAREDEVIL was more of a slick music video than a coherent whole -- lots of rapid edits, awkwardly-stylized action sequences and suspended-motion cinematography. No doubt he got it all wrong since DAREDEVIL is supposed to be a gritty crime picture, not a fanciful guilty-pleasure entertainment.

Here's Joel Schumacher and his BATMAN movie again in this Top 10 list. Whereas BATMAN FOREVER marked the beginning of the downfall for the franchise, the director and some of the casts, Schumacher and his company has done it again -- this time with BATMAN & ROBIN. In the fourth installment, the movie went on becoming more colorful and cheesy than ever. You could say everything about this movie was nothing more than an elaborate Halloween party movie -- fetish, leather, rubber and of course, the unforgettable nipples in the Batsuit! All the actors were awfully miscast here -- especially for George Clooney as Batman/Bruce Wayne and his cheesy line, "This is why Superman works alone"; Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze who looked more like an overblown plastic action figure; Uma Thurman in her heavily-distracting and empty-headed role as Poison Ivy; and of course Alicia Silverstone who didn't do much other than swaggered around looking more like Fatgirl than Batgirl to me. BATMAN & ROBIN was such a critical and box-office disappointment that the studio has delayed any future BATMAN sequel for more than 8 years until the emergence of Christopher Nolan's BATMAN BEGINS in 2005.

If the equally disappointed DAREDEVIL was not enough, here's another wasted opportunity in the form of a spin-off, ELEKTRA. Jennifer Garner was again, reprised the title role and not surprisingly, she was more of a strict caricature. But the biggest culprit here was Raven Metzner and Stuart Zicherman's awfully generic script as well as Rob Bowman's pedestrian direction. Everything in ELEKTRA was clumsily-constructed with poor cameraworks, lame action sequences and cheesy special effects. It was that dull and b-o-r-i-n-g.

And here it is! My No.1's worst comic-book movie of all time! All round of applause to this dead-cat stinker, CATWOMAN! It is supposed the long-awaited spinoff from BATMAN RETURNS (1992) but instead of a Catwoman role with the Michelle Pfeiffer-like iconic acting quality, we get a tastelessly hideous Halle Berry donning the slutty Catwoman suit which looked more like a dominatrix from porn movie than anything else matters! But the biggest disappointment of all was how disgraceful this movie became -- French director Pitof who was making his Hollywood debut ditched whatever comic-book mythology related to Bob Kane's original creation and no reference to Batman or Gotham City, and turned everything into a bloated mess of epic proportion. The story was paper-thin, and Pitof's direction was terribly awkward -- his constantly swooping camera angles that kept flowing like a buzzing fly was more of a side-splitting headache than an engaging piece of work. If that's not insulting enough, the movie also suffered from poor editing, awkwardly-placing soundtracks (tarty R&B, anyone?), poorly-choreographed action sequences and lame special effects -- all wasted in this $100 million-budget production.

Agree with my lists? If not, have your say!

Friday, 1 July 2011



Before I begin with TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, let's recap the previous two TRANSFORMERS movie. The first movie, which shown in 2007, was a spectacular action movie extravaganza filled with gigantic shape-shifting robots and amazing special effects that pleased (most) of the fans who used to watch the '80s iconic cartoon series of the same name as well as newcomers alike. But it was notable that the first movie suffered from needlessly bloated plot, annoying characters and some poorly-edited action sequences. Two years later in 2009, the sequel, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN fell victim again from the the first movie's flaws. What's worse, the second movie had even made bigger mistake by slamming with a nearly-unbearable overlong plot, extremely annoying characters and more epilepsy-inducing action sequences than ever before. The result was heavily reviled by critics and fans alike, but ironically the second movie still made a lot of money in the box-office, with an amazing worldwide box-office grosses of $836.2 million. Franchise director Michael Bay had certainly felt the heat for the second movie and he's even admittedly hated it as well. For the third movie, he had gone on a record promising the fans that he'll made amends to improve better as well as correcting some of the mistakes he made in the past.