Monday, 31 December 2012
Sunday, 30 December 2012
Saturday, 29 December 2012
When the trailer for JACK REACHER was debuted online, I have to say the marketing team does a great job promoting the movie as a refreshingly low-tech crime thriller, which is a welcome change-of-pace from the usual genre you've seen nowadays. In fact, the trailer almost led me to believe the movie is going to deliver a muscular cinematic experience especially with the always-reliable Tom Cruise playing a bad-ass character. But upon finally watching the movie, it is clear that all the trailers are misleading and JACK REACHER is actually nothing more than a wannabe crime thriller trying so hard to look cool and pulpy at the same time. Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, who last made his only directing effort in 2000's underwhelming THE WAY OF THE GUN, fails miserably to bring Lee Child's much-beloved Jack Reacher novel series into a worthwhile big screen adaptation.
Saturday, 22 December 2012
CZ12 a.k.a. CHINESE ZODIAC opens with a brief prologue (narrated by Jiang Wen) about how British forces invaded China in 1860 and end up stealing a number of prized Chinese antiques, which includes the heads of 12 Chinese zodiac animal statues from Beijing's Old Summer Palace. Ever since then, the 12 bronze heads have long obscured until they resurface in auction houses around the world. When wealthy businessman and antique collector Lawrence Morgan (Oliver Platt) desperately wants to get his hands on the last of the remaining bronze heads, he ends up hiring renowned treasure hunter JC (Jackie Chan) for the job, at an astonishing price of $1 million for each head. JC agrees and quickly assembles his team which includes his right-hand man Simon (Kwon Sang Woo), tech wiz David (Liao Fan) and female assistant Bonnie (Zhang Lanxin). They head on to Paris, where JC poses as a National Geographic photographer and meets Coco (Yao Xingtong), a Mainland Chinese activist who is working hard with her like-minded young people to bring the lost antiques back to China. After JC successfully stealing two bronze heads from a French mansion, he crosses path again with Coco and eventually ends up meeting Katherine (Laura Weissbecker), a French aristocrat where her great-great grandfather was involved in the raid of the Old Summer Palace. Soon, all of them tag along and travel to a remote island in search of the remaining bronze heads and some hidden golds. What follows next is a series of (mis)adventures as they encounter a band of pirates and other dangerous threats ahead.
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
In conjunction with Jackie Chan's upcoming "last big action movie", CHINESE ZODIAC (a.k.a. CZ12) which opens this Thursday, here's my review of his second "Asian Hawk" trilogy called ARMOUR OF GOD II: OPERATION CONDOR.
Jackie (Jackie Chan), who is also known as the "Asian Hawk", is enlisted to retrieve a fortune in Nazi gold that was hidden somewhere in the Sahara desert during the World War II. He agrees for the mission, and soon he joins forces with Ada (Carol Cheng), a map expert, Elsa (Eva Cobo de Garcia) and later Monoko (Shoko Ikeda), who has a pet scorpion named Ding Ding. En route, they face a series of mishaps as they fight for survival against all odds. When they finally found the buried bunker underneath the Sahara desert, they must figure out the way to open the bunker which already rigged with booby traps. Not only that, they also forced to confront a group of Arab terrorists, led by a wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi named Adolf (Alfred Brel Sanchez). Apparently, Adolf was responsible for Elsa's grandfather's death back in World War II, which has to do with the Nazi gold.
Sunday, 16 December 2012
In conjunction with Jackie Chan's upcoming "last big action movie", CHINESE ZODIAC (a.k.a. CZ12) which opens this Thursday, here's my review of his first "Asian Hawk" trilogy called ARMOUR OF GOD.
Jackie Chan plays Jackie, an adventure also known as the "Asian Hawk". Following from a successful mission of stealing a sword from an African tribe, he subsequently sells it at an auction to the highest bidder. Shortly after, he gets visited by his old friend, Alan (Alan Tam), who desperately needs his help to rescue Alan's girlfriend Laura (Rosamund Kwan). Apparently, she has been kidnapped by an evil cult demanding the very sword Jackie has auctioned at the first place. The sword is actually one of the five pieces of valuable armour known as the "Armour of God", and the possession is now at the hand of a wealthy Count named Barron (Bozidar Smiljanic). Jackie requests the Count for borrowing the sword to rescue Laura. The Count agrees, but on the condition that Jackie and Alan must bring along his precious daughter May (Lola Forner) along on the journey. And so, the adventure begins as they subsequently face a series of dangerous situations one after another until they end up at a mountain monastery where the evil cult are located.
Following from his critically-acclaimed meditative western THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (2007), New Zealand-born director Andrew Dominik explores hard-boiled crime genre in KILLING THEM SOFTLY. Despite early positive reviews and a coveted Palme d'Or nomination at the recent Cannes Film Festival, the movie is well-acted but shockingly mundane effort that doesn't really deserved such high acclaim at the first place.
After THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was released a decade ago, (many) would have agree with me it was the holy grail of all epic fantasy genre for modern generation. And thanks to director Peter Jackson for taking the fans and moviegoers for such an unforgettable cinematic journey. Now here he is again, attempting to bring the same cinematic magic in THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. No doubt this is really a monumental task for him especially he had set the bar high in his LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Naturally, fans and moviegoers alike are definitely expecting a lot from him as well. The good news is, THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY will satisfy (a lot) of die-hard fans who have read the J.R.R. Tolkien's book. And at the same time, the familiar majestic feel and strong visual flair that we have grown accustomed to Jackson's epic filmmaking style is there. But the bad news is, the movie is mostly a long-winded slog and unnecessarily bloated that might frustrate a lot of casual viewers.
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
When SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT was first released in 1984, this low-budget slasher movie stirred a huge controversy during the holiday season. Apparently this was because the killer in the movie was dressed as Santa Claus. It was so controversial that the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) demanded for the movie to remove from theaters due to its subject matter and the fact it was shown around Christmas. A lot of angry families had also staged large protest over the movie around the nation, until it prompted TriStar Pictures (its original distributor) to pull all the ads six days after its theatrical release. Shortly after, the movie was withdrawn from showing in theaters until it was later re-released by an independent distributor in spring 1986.
Familiar fairytale mythologies gets a hippie makeover in RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, a holiday-themed animated feature that brilliantly incorporated superhero genre into the fairytale elements (think THE AVENGERS for the kiddies). No doubt it's a killer concept to see such beloved fairytale characters of Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost and Sandman combined together into one movie. The result is imaginative and visually dazzling fairytale adventure that dares to be different.
Before director Kathryn Bigelow became widely recognizable with her later effort in 1987's NEAR DARK, 1991's POINT BREAK, 1995's STRANGE DAYS and of course, right down to 2009's Oscar-winning war drama THE HURT LOCKER, she made her first feature debut in a low-budget independent drama called THE LOVELESS when she was still studying in NYC as a film student. THE LOVELESS is a stylized and eccentric genre movie that pays homage to 1950s biker movies (notably Marlon Brando's THE WILD ONE) with arthouse sensibility. This movie is also notable as Willem Dafoe's first lead role.
Monday, 10 December 2012
Inspired by Canadian writer Craig Davidson's short story collection, Jacques Audiard's RUST AND BONE is an absorbing, if overly melodramatic drama about two people who are damaged both physically and emotionally. This French-language drama gained a lot of attention when it was nominated for this year's coveted Palme d'Or (which was subsequently won by Michael Haneke's AMOUR).
Sunday, 9 December 2012
Best known for the crime drama THE COUNTERFEITERS which won the foreign-language Oscar in 2008, Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky's DEADFALL starts with a bang. Following from the aftermath of a casino heist, criminal siblings Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde), speeding their car along the slippery road of northern Michigan snowdrift. Suddenly an accident happens out of nowhere, which sends their car flipped into the air (which is brilliantly shot from inside of the car) and crashes down the snow-covered land, and ends up killing their driver. While Liza is trying to retrieve all the heist money scattered all over the place, a state trooper shows up. Addison wastes no time to approach the state trooper and shoots him to death. So far, so good. No doubt Ruzowitzky knows a lot of camera placements and staging a knockout action sequence. But what follows next is a bloated thriller that drags a lot throughout the course of its 95-minute duration.
A top-notch Hong Kong comedy at its best, Pang Ho-Cheung's VULGARIA is a hilarious satire that pokes fun at the Hong Kong movie industry (particularly Category III genre) and of course, low-budget filmmaking in general. The first two scenes are particularly the funniest ones that had me laughing nonstop. It opens with a sleazy producer named To Wai-Cheung (Chapman To) who is being interviewed by his old friend Professor Cheng (Lawrence Cheng) inside an auditorium filled with film students, to discuss the nature of producing a movie. Among the hilarious part is how To compares his job as a producer to human pubic hair (a vulgar, but inspiring metaphor nonetheless). Next up, is another memorable part on how To recounts an unfortunate incident in which he was forced to do something unpleasant for the sake of funding a movie. Introduced by his best friend Lui (Simon Lui), both of them head over to Guangxi and meets a triad head named Tyrannosaurus (Ronald Cheng) at a favourite restaurant. Tyrannosaurus has a peculiar taste, especially the way he introduces both of them all the so-called signature weird dishes. But nothing comes weirder than Tyrannosaurus' taste of "woman". Not human, that is but rather a mule. In order to seal the deal of getting the fund, both To and Lui must have sex with two mules specially brought over for them. And there's more: Tyrannosaurus is specifically wanted To to remake a 1976 period erotic classic CONFESSION OF A CONCUBINE and only wants his favourite star, Siu Yam-Yam (Susan Shaw) to play the leading role all over again. So To calls out Siu Yam-Yam to propose his idea for the CONFESSION OF A CONCUBINE remake. But since the original version has aged over 30 years ago, it's natural that the now-older Siu Yam-Yam feels unpleasant to strip anymore (you'll get the picture). Nevertheless, Siu Yam-Yam rejects his offer, but To must find way to fulfil Tyrannosaurus' pet project no matter what. Enter wannabe starlet nicknamed Popping Candy (Dada Chan). During a fellatio involving some popping candies, Popping Candy has unexpectedly given To a great idea about how to make Tyrannosaurus' dream comes true. By using CGI, he will combine Siu Yam-Yam's face and Popping Candy's busty body. His idea nevertheless prompted Siu Yam-Yam herself to agree for playing the role all over again. But of course, nothing comes smooth during the filmmaking process as To also juggles with his own personal problem involving his ex-wife (Crystal Tin) and his little daughter Jacqueline (Jacqueline Chan).
In 1995, Pixar had creatively made a memorable story of how toy figures live their life in TOY STORY. Now following from the similar tradition, Walt Disney Animation Studios' WRECK-IT RALPH imagines how video game characters would come to life after an arcade closes its doors. No doubt it's a high-concept premise worth looking forward to. Special kudos to first-time feature director Rich Moore (best known for directing a few episodes of TV's Futurama and The Simpsons) for gamely exploring his nostalgic love of yesteryears as well as today's arcades generation (fans of video game are going to love this a lot) and brimming its heartwarming tale with a dash of knowing humor and genuine emotion. Not only that, WRECK-IT RALPH is one gorgeous-looking animation with an keen eye for detail, making this a fun-filled adventure for all ages.
Saturday, 8 December 2012
In 2008, actor-director Clint Eastwood had stated that GRAN TORINO would be his final acting role. But four years later, he's back in the acting role again. That's not all, this is the first movie Eastwood has starred in which he has not directed himself since Wolfgang Petersen's IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993). And believe it or not, TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE is first ever baseball movie for Clint Eastwood. As interesting as it may sounds, the movie turns out to be nothing more than a cliched-ridden, old-fashioned baseball drama that we have seen countless times before.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Before I go straight with the review, picture this: Tyler Perry, who made a fortune playing a cross-dressing, gun-toting mama in the lucrative MADEA series, tries to reinvent himself into a different actor. An action star, to be exact. For those who have seen his MADEA series before, some of you might be thinking: seriously? Frankly, an actor who is primarily known in comedy genre can make a smooth transition as an action star. Take Bruce Willis, for instance, who had successfully became an action icon when he did DIE HARD back in 1988 after a short stint in TV's Moonlighting. Unfortunately, Tyler Perry looks uncomfortable playing his first action-oriented role in ALEX CROSS -- a loose prequel to 1997's KISS THE GIRLS and 2001's ALONG CAME A SPIDER (both starred Morgan Freeman). Shame about the movie as well, which is nothing more than a clunky and haphazard thriller.
Thursday, 29 November 2012
Once deemed "unfilmable" by three directors (M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuaron and Jean-Pierre Jeunet) who came and exited the big-screen adaptation of Yann Martel's award-winning novel, LIFE OF PI, Taiwanese director Ang Lee takes up the challenge and he succeeds beautifully. LIFE OF PI is one of the year's most cinematic motion pictures ever seen -- it's visually stunning, emotionally gripping and thematically inspiring adventure drama that pushes (almost) all the right buttons.
Monday, 26 November 2012
A well-made, coming-of-age drama that explores friendship, romance, sexuality and politics, Yang Ya-Che's GF*BF (alternatively titled as GIRLFRIEND BOYFRIEND) is one of the best Taiwanese movies I've ever come across. No wonder the movie is well-deserved to earn 7 nominations at the 49th Golden Horse Awards (which later won Gwei Lun-Mei a Best Actress award as well as Audience Choice Award).
Sunday, 25 November 2012
In 2010, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes stamped his mark in Hollywood with his unique thriller, BURIED, which was set entirely in a coffin and blessed with a tour de force performance by Ryan Reynolds. Now he's back again with sophomore effort titled as RED LIGHTS. Here lies the biggest question: is Rodrigo Cortes a one-trick pony or he's a capable director after all? The good news is, Cortes has a knack or two about delivering genuine suspense and in RED LIGHTS, he continues to deliver his unique storytelling method. To begin with, RED LIGHTS is blessed with an irresistibly captivating premise -- a supernatural genre that debunked the myth behind the otherworldly phenomena involving ghosts, telekinesis and such. It's like watching MythBusters with a supernatural twist.
The highly-anticipated TAI CHI ZERO -- a classic martial-art movie with a steampunk twist, was supposed to be a turning point in the well-worn genre. Instead it's a huge disappointment in all level. So here we are again -- an immediate sequel titled as TAI CHI HERO which is shot back-to-back with the first movie. The biggest question is: does this second installment improves considerably? Well, the answer is a big "NO". Even though TAI CHI HERO has lowered down its geek culture references and focusing more on character-driven drama, this disappointing sequel remains lackluster from start till the end.
Ten years ago, J (singer Joey Yung) is a nobody. But it is not until she meets a manager Man (Chapman To), who finds her potential enough to be a singing superstar. Cut to the present day, J has becomes the reigning pop queen who often stage sold-out concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum. Much of her huge success comes from her manager Man, who has been working with her for so long. While J gets to enjoy a glamorous life of fame and fortune, she actually feels like a slave who often being controlled what to do and what not to do. She even has little sense of privacy, and it doesn't takes long before she feels intense amounts of pressure until she is losing her voice at a live show. Knowing that this situation may cause an unwanted scandal by the media, Man immediately sends J over to the Mainland for a fast recovery. There, she meets a blind masseur Hu Ming (Hu Ge) where she eventually falls in love with him. At the beginning, she is glad to find a blissful life with her newfound boyfriend. But Man doesn't agrees with her relationship at all because he knows that dating a blind man will cause her a bad reputation among fans and media. Meanwhile, Man is also grooming a young singing sensation Red (Mag Lam) to be the next big diva like J. While Man is very happy to be discovered that her dream of stardom is about to come true, she is also risked her relationship with her boyfriend Lok (Carlos Chan).
Throughout his illustrious career, veteran director Barry Levinson is primarily known for his small-scale comedic dramas by the likes of his beloved "Baltimore" series (1982's DINER, 1987's TIN MEN, 1990's AVALON and 1999's LIBERTY HEIGHTS) and of course his biggest hit to date, 1988's RAIN MAN, in which the movie won four Academy Awards. He tackled other genres as well with varying degree of success, such as 1984's THE NATURAL (baseball drama), 1991's BUGSY (gangster drama), 1994's DISCLOSURE (techno thriller) and 1998's SPHERE (sci-fi thriller). In his new movie, THE BAY marks Levinson's first foray into found-footage horror genre. It's a radical change of pace, and it's also interesting to see how an old dog like Levinson can brings his directing experience to this current genre craze. Produced by none others than Oren Peli of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY fame, THE BAY is a genuinely creepy, if somewhat hollow thriller that exploits the horror of an ecological disaster.
No holiday movies would ever be complete without a special mention to John Hughes' buddy-comedy classic, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. Prior to this movie, Hughes is best known for his defining teen genre in the '80s by the likes of SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB and FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF. PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES marked his first foray into adult comedy. A radical departure, indeed but Hughes manages to hit (almost) all the right buttons here.
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Oh, finally! After four highly-successful blockbuster movies (beginning with 2008's TWILIGHT and right up to 2011's THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1), the lucrative series has come to an end with the fifth and final chapter that sees director Bill Condon back for the second round. In BREAKING DAWN - PART 1, he had a difficult task to adapt what was widely regarded the most controversial book of the series which dramatically alternated from high-school romance to darker subject matters like intimacy issues and unexpected pregnancy. He succeeded some of those elements there, but mostly failed to deliver a compelling whole due to his lackluster direction. So now he returns with THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 2, and I'm eager to see whether he saves the best for the last. For some reasons, there are slight improvements here and there. But overall, given the fact this is the final chapter of a highly-regarded series, it remains as a disappointment.
Monday, 19 November 2012
Home-invasion thriller is nothing new. We have seen them before in movies like STRAW DOGS (1971), right down to FUNNY GAMES (2007) and THE STRANGERS (2008). As formulaic or shopworn that particular subgenre is, home-invasion thriller can still be a gripping cinematic experience if done with the right level of skill and intelligence. Fortunately, first-time feature director Jeremy Power Regimbal's IN THEIR SKIN (formerly known as REPLICAS -- which sounds too sci-fi for me) manages to give this an otherwise same-old genre thriller with a disturbingly edgy undertone and particularly heighten the movie with compelling performances by its leads.
Sunday, 18 November 2012
From his breakthrough screenplay in 2001's TRAINING DAY to his both equally intense directing efforts in 2006's HARSH TIMES and 2008's STREET KINGS, writer-director David Ayer has a seemingly endless fascination with the gritty undertones of LAPD. And his trend of the familiar cop genre continues with his latest directing effort, END OF WATCH. At the first glance, the movie is more of the same gritty L.A.-set cop drama that we have seen many times before. But this time, it's a relief that Ayer doesn't exactly repeating himself too much. In END OF WATCH, he refashions the familiar cop genre with pseudo-documentary, found-footage style. Shooting a gritty cop movie in handheld camera gives you that extra edge of you-are-there kind of feel, and END OF WATCH scores most of that point. Too bad, like any other David Ayer's movie (excluding TRAINING DAY), the movie doesn't capitalize its promising setup into a satisfying whole.
Saturday, 17 November 2012
When I first saw the trailer of KEPONG GANGSTER a few months back, my initial hope for this locally-made production was relatively low. Throughout the trailer, I can't help myself wondering that the filmmakers behind KEPONG GANGSTER is trying to ape the evergreen success of Andrew Lau's YOUNG AND DANGEROUS series or they wanted to come up a Chinese version of the hugely-successful KL GANGSTER (2011). Either way, I was pleasantly surprised that KEPONG GANGSTER turns out to be a worthwhile genre picture. While the movie is full of cliches with a stereotypical plot you can smell a mile away, veteran music video director-turned-first-time feature filmmaker Teng Bee does a considerable job making a formulaic gangster movie somewhat effective, yet entertaining enough for the (local) mainstream audiences.
Friday, 9 November 2012
Touted as "the next INFERNAL AFFAIRS", COLD WAR is a bold, if heavily flawed action thriller that gives a fresh perspective rarely seen in a cop genre by showing an internal conflict between a group of high-ranking police officers struggling to solve a case.
Sunday, 4 November 2012
CHAINED starts off with a bleak moment with a warm-up mayhem involving a frightened kid and a sadistic killer brought a helpless female victim back home for God-knows-what. Then the movie introduces a loving family, where Brad (Jake Weber) drives his beautiful wife, Sarah (Julia Ormond) and 9-year-old son Tim (Evan Bird) to a multiplex matinee. Before Brad leaves, he urges his wife and his son to take a cab back home instead of a bus. After having a fun time watching a movie, they are lucky enough to grab a cab within a short moment and decides to head back home. However, the cab driver named Bob (Vincent D' Onofrio) purposely misses their exit, and instead takes them to the middle of nowhere. Both Sarah and Tim starts to freak out and demands him to stop the cab. Bob ends up taking them back to his isolated ranch, and parks his cab inside the garage. As he locks the kid inside, he drags Sarah out of the cab and begins assaulting her. Once Bob is finished with her, he's back to the garage and drags Tim out. He reveals to him that his mom is already dead and he intends to lock him inside the ranch forever. Soon, he treats him like a slave (in which he now calls him "Rabbit") as he will obey him whatever he tells him to do -- including cooking, cleaning and serving him. Then one day, Tim attempts to escape out of the ranch but Bob is always one step ahead and decides to lock him on a long chain.
SINISTER involves Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), a highly-successful true-crime novelist who took the publishing world by storm with "Kentucky Blood". But that was ten years ago. Now he's been laying low for so long that he has exhausted most of his earnings and desperately needs another bestselling hit. In hope to begin his writing on his new book, he moves his family to a rural town in Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and children, 12-year-old Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) and 8-year-old Ashley (Clare Foley), the house they have currently moved in is actually a subject of Ellison's latest work. Apparently, it is the same location where a family was murdered and found hang from the tree that still stands in the backyard. Except for the only member who was not found -- the youngest daughter named Stephanie (Victoria Leigh), abducted and long presumed to be dead. One day, Ellison stumbles upon a box of Super 8 reels and a projector in the attic. Curious to know what it is, he brings it down to his private office and discovers that each reel is labelled like home movies for the family. When he begins playing each of the reels, he is shocked to discover that the footage contains a different family being first stalked by the Super 8 camera, then ended up being killed. As he tries to piece out the eerie connection together, he slowly discovers that it has something to do with a demonic pagan deity known as Bughuul a.k.a. Mr Boogie (Nicholas King), who seems to appear in every reel Ellison has been playing all along.
Saturday, 3 November 2012
South Korea's answer to TOP GUN (1986) -- SOAR INTO THE SUN (a.k.a. R2B: RETURN TO BASE) is a big-budget blockbuster tries to replicate the Hollywood-style of filmmaking mostly found in any summer movie tentpole. It certainly has that showy and expensive look, particularly for its many impressive aerial stunts (more on that later). But writer-director Kim Dong-Won botches everything up with too many cheesy melodrama and mawkish sentimentality borderlined into self-parody. No wonder the movie ends up underperformed at the domestic box-office.
Friday, 2 November 2012
When SKYFALL made its theatrical debut in U.K. and many international countries on October 26, many have hailed this as "the best Bond movie ever". So, does it really deserves such a high praise? Well, I'm proud to say all the four years' wait was well worth it. This is the follow-up to the excellent CASINO ROYALE (2006) that should have been. That said, SKYFALL is a whole lot better than the disappointingly glum QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008).
Sunday, 28 October 2012
VICTIM opens in a gruesome manner where one night, a parking garage attendant hears two shots echoes on the parking lot above. Moments later a van comes speeding forward and brutally runs him over before fleeing the scene. The police are called to the scene with Inspector Pit (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) in charge for the case. During his investigation, he quickly discovers an abandoned car belongs to a mild-mannered computer engineer named Ma Man-Sun (Lau Ching-Wan). The surveillance tape in the parking lot shows that Ma is being kidnapped by two unknown assailants. Pit and his team eventually brought in Ma's girlfriend, Amy (Amy Kwok, and Lau's real-life spouse) for questioning. According to Amy, Ma had been unemployed for some time and he owes a lot of debts. Not long after, Pit receives a call from the kidnappers saying that Ma has been released and can be found in an old abandoned hotel. Apparently, that particular building is widely believed to be haunted, following from a notorious history where the owner discovered his wife was unfaithful. He decapitated her before poisoning himself and his son. Once there, Pit eventually locates Ma who is found hanging upside down with a chain above the ceiling, -- alive but badly bruised. Ma is subsequently brought back for questioning, but he behaves very mysteriously and hardly speaks at all. Could he be possessed by the ghost in the haunted hotel or is there a different agenda altogether?
Saturday, 27 October 2012
Not much of a direct sequel to the surprisingly worthwhile UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (2009) but rather an experimental new chapter, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING is unlike any typical sequels die-hard fans of this franchise might come to expect. Despite the return of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION helmer John Hyams for the second time, this is a genre mishmash of noirish mystery, splatter movie, action and believe it or not -- APOCALYPSE NOW-style surrealism. It's certainly a bold and daring move for John Hyams to rewrite the entire franchise in favor to bring something fresh on the table. However, despite his ambitious approach, this latest UNIVERSAL SOLDIER entry is disappointingly bloated and haphazardly executed.
This is definitely (every) die-hard action fans' dream comes true: a rematch between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. Last time they starred together was that cheesy but entertaining B-grade action extravaganza UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (1992), which was back then quite a decent success. However, subsequent sequel of 1999's UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN and two unrelated DTV (direct-to-video) experimentation were terribly pale in comparison. Fortunately, first-time director John Hyams (son of Peter Hyams who once helmed two Van Damme's movies, TIMECOP (1994) and SUDDEN DEATH (1995) steps up to the game by bravely ignored whatever previous incarnations and positioned UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION into a surprisingly ambitious DTV sequel to the 1992 original hit. Despite its DTV status, the sequel is not the kind of gimmickry picture that simply used the established brand-name and winds up as a lame carbon copy.
When the first SILENT HILL debuted in theaters six years ago, there were tons of anticipations but the movie received lukewarm response and tanked at the box office. Six years later, the SILENT HILL movie is back for second time in an attempt to resurrect the failed franchise. The good news is, SILENT HILL: REVELATION is thankfully shorter than the first entry (94 minutes vs. 127 minutes) and it's considerably more fun. But the bad news is, this long-awaited sequel is noticeably lack of scare and above all, gore, that doesn't really justify its R-rating.
This hugely-anticipated movie adaptation from the hugely-popular Silent Hill video game seems like a blessing at the first place: it has RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION scribe Roger Avary as the writer and visionary French director Christophe Gans, who is no stranger to such genre realm, having directed movies like CRYING FREEMAN (1995) and BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2002). The good news is, they have succeeded to translate this popular game into the big-screen medium with admirable result. I must say that SILENT HILL is one of those rarities where the movie actually looks like the game it was based, and that's really a compliment. Here, the movie captures the suffocating fog of creepiness and genuinely disturbing sense of dreadful atmosphere that characterized the essence of the game. The bad news is, the movie clocks at a rather unnecessary 127-minute long. And for all the visual achievements the filmmakers have meticulously executed here, they have apparently forgotten how to create tension and certain interest to turn this one into a little important thing called "entertainment".
Sunday, 14 October 2012
Previously known as WINDSEEKER, Alan Mak and Felix Chong's THE SILENT WAR fizzled at the Hong Kong box office upon release but somehow gained huge success in Mainland China. Reviews were also terribly mixed. But somehow I'm surprised to find out that THE SILENT WAR isn't as bad as I thought. Yes, it feels somewhat hollow for most parts but overall, it's an engaging dramatic thriller benefited from a solid cast and competent directions from Alan Mak and Felix Chong.
Thursday, 11 October 2012
Zero fanfare, barely-there 141 theaters count in the U.S. (a surprise, considering it's a movie starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Simon West of CON AIR and THE EXPENDABLES 2 fame), and scathing reviews -- everything about STOLEN spells rotten. Many have even lambasted this as among the worst Nicolas Cage movie he's ever acted. Personally, I don't blame them for being so harsh since Nicolas Cage's movies nowadays are mostly rubbish. But surprisingly, STOLEN isn't as bad as I thought. It isn't good either, but rather a fairly worthwhile action thriller.
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Shot in summer 2010, but released two years later to capitalize Jennifer Lawrence's mass popularity after making headlines with her Oscar-nominated performance in WINTER'S BONE (2010) and later became an instant superstar for starring in this year's box-office hit, THE HUNGER GAMES. However, her new movie, HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET, is a dreadful psychological thriller that tries too hard to venture into PSYCHO-like territory but comes up terribly short. Interestingly enough, the movie has been heavily promoted with a designated Twitter hashtag under the short title of #HATES. How ironic!
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
Touted as one of the most anticipated Chinese movie blockbusters of the year, actor-director Stephen Fung's TAI CHI ZERO is a revisionist take of a classic martial-art movie with a steampunk twist. On paper, the concept sounds interesting enough. Even the trailer itself makes me believe it's a go-for-broke, martial arts comedy in the vein of KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004). But for all the colorful effort that Fung tries hard to be different than your regular martial-art movie, TAI CHI ZERO is strangely uninvolving and poorly executed in many ways.
When the first TAKEN (2008) was shown in 2008, nobody would have thought that Liam Neeson could convince the viewers with his "special set of skills" (read: martial arts). But he did it very well, and the movie went on to become a surprise hit during that year. Now here comes the unnecessary sequel, which is obviously made to cash in the success of the first movie. Unsurprisingly, of course, TAKEN 2 is more of the same. Still, being formulaic can sometimes have its fun factor, as long as the filmmakers deliver the same intensity and excitement that the first movie had done successfully. However, the filmmakers behind the sequel can't even get the same thing right. Let's just say the result is seriously a lazy rehash with a capital "L".
Sunday, 30 September 2012
Prior to the theatrical release of LOOPER, the movie has already gained favorable reviews among (many) critics when it first screened in various film festivals. In fact, it is so overwhelmingly positive that some critics has even praised the movie as "the best sci-fi movie in years". The good news is, LOOPER does delivers its praise -- writer-director Rian Johnson is bold enough to toy with the familiar time-travel concept inside out and making them fresh, exciting, original and unpredictable. But the bad news is, most of the high concepts here are sadly half-baked ideas that failed to accomplish as a satisfying whole. More on that later.
Sunday, 23 September 2012
Talky movies are always hard to pull off, especially those which deals with complex or dense subject matter. To make them interesting, it's always important to engage the viewers with captivating performance(s) and strong dialogues. This is no doubt a difficult test for director David Cronenberg. He's hardly known as a director who relies heavily on dialogue to tell his story. Actually he did attempt such approach before in last year's A DANGEROUS METHOD, but he failed miserably with his static direction. This time, he hits an all-time low in COSMOPOLIS -- a lifeless and painfully boring motion picture that even a die-hard arthouse fans might find this a monumental waste of time.
Mention the word "Dredd" or "Judge Dredd", that Stallone's embarrassingly awful movie instantly comes to mind. For decades (17 years, to be exact), no other studios has dared to resurrect the franchise ever since until a new development has finally seen the light of its day when it was first announced on 20 December 2008 as an independent movie project. At the first glance, I was skeptical for the new "Judge Dredd" movie, titled as DREDD, when the studio (DNA Films) hired director Pete Travis (2009's VANTAGE POINT) to helm the project. After all, Pete Travis isn't the kind of name that immediately springs to mind for to take over such a beloved comic-book character. But thankfully, Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland has (mostly) succeeded what Stallone has failed back in 1995 -- they get the somber brutality tone right. Just like the comic book itself, DREDD is undeniably gritty and ultra-violent sci-fi actioner that will surely please a lot of fanboys and like-minded audiences who prefers their R-rated genre movie.
Saturday, 22 September 2012
With DREDD (review coming soon!) currently showing in theaters everywhere, I would like to revisit the first JUDGE DREDD movie that hits the theaters back in 1995. That was like 17 years ago, and that awfully embarrassing big-screen effort still lingered in my mind after such a long period of time.
Friday, 21 September 2012
This is the re-post of my review for UNSTOPPABLE dated on November 28, 2010. It is also sadly his unexpected final movie before Tony Scott took his own life two years later. I was personally expecting him making a great comeback when he announced he's up for the long-awaited TOP GUN 2 with Tom Cruise. After all, TOP GUN was the genre-defining movie that launched Scott's directing career. With two of his upcoming feature-movie projects, EMMA'S WAR and TOP GUN 2 hanging in limbo, I hope someone else will carry on his legacy.
Following from 2009's inferior remake of THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3, Tony Scott and Denzel Washington seems to continue their obsession over train-based action picture and this time the result is UNSTOPPABLE. You must be thinking a title like UNSTOPPABLE sounds like a pure popcorn fun best suited for summer movie release and the fact that the trailer looks comparatively like the 1994's genre-defining SPEED (where both movies shared almost the same identical premise, only with different setting and without a villain). Too bad what could have been a highly-entertaining, thrill-a-minute action movie turns out to be a painfully tedious ride and yet served another disappointment for both Tony Scott and Denzel Washington.
Thursday, 20 September 2012
By now, you should have heard the worldwide sensation of THE RAID: REDEMPTION (known in Indonesia as SERBUAN MAUT). Ever since the movie made its successful round in last year's Toronto Film Festival, it has been flooded with overwhelming praise after praise -- until some of the critics even hailed THE RAID: REDEMPTION as "one of the best action movies in years". The movie proves to be so popular that a Hollywood remake is well on its way soon. Now here lies the question: Is THE RAID: REDEMPTION really that praiseworthy? Well, let's just say the movie is a little overrated. Pitch-perfect action movie this is not, but certainly a notch above than most action movies shown in the theaters nowadays.
On paper, BAIT has an outlandish premise that sounds like a trashy B-movie fun: Two great white sharks prowling the tsunami-drowned Australian supermarket with a few survivors trapped inside. By right, the movie supposed to be a lot of fun and exciting. Imagine all the bloody mayhem and claustrophobic suspense this movie could have done. However, director Kimble Rendall made a grave mistake by taking this an otherwise tongue-in-cheek genre movie too seriously for its own good. Nevertheless, BAIT is sadly more of a waterlogged thriller.
Monday, 17 September 2012
Set in 1920/30s Shanghai, THE BULLET VANISHES opens with a suspicious death of a young female worker named Yan (Xuxu) of an ammunition factory, who is accused of stealing a bullet by his boss, Ding (Liu Kai-Chi). To prove her innocence, Ding challenges her for a game of Russian roulette. She is unlucky enough to end up dead after she shoots herself in the head. Meanwhile, Song Donglu (Lau Ching-Wan), a quirky and eccentric prison superintendent who is known for his obsessive investigation method, is summoned by police chief Jin (Wu Gang) to investigate the murder of Chen Qi (Liu Yang), a foreman who has been hit by a bullet that went through his skull and made a dent in the wall. Teaming up with hotshot "fastest gun-in-the-region" detective Guo Zhui (Nicholas Tse), they head over to the ammunition factory where Chen Qi's death took place. Strangely enough, they find no trace of bullets. The workers there claims it must be the work of Yan, who returns as a ghost exacting revenge but Song and Guo figures there must be a less supernatural explanation in their investigation.