August 2012 | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Review: THE POSSESSION (2012)


Have you ever thought that upon watching a certain trailer is more than enough for you, without bothering to watch the entire movie? THE POSSESSION is definitely one of them. At the first glance, this Sam Raimi-produced spookfest looks potential enough for its premise alone: An antique wooden box contains a demon known as "dibbuk". Whoever opens the box, will ultimately cursed and subsequently possesses the owner to commit unspeakable act of terror. With a premise like that, you'll expect the filmmakers here will have a wild time making a horror movie as frightening as it gets. I almost expect Sam Raimi will pull off another edge-of-your-seat shocker in the vein of his own DRAG ME TO HELL (2009), but at the hand of Ole Bornedal (1997's NIGHTWATCH), it's a shame that this movie is shockingly dull.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Review: THE CONCUBINE 후궁: 제왕의 첩 (2012)


As one of the most highly-anticipated South Korean blockbusters of the year, THE CONCUBINE has created an insane amount of media frenzy which mostly surrounded its graphic portrayal of sex and the nude scenes involving lead actress Jo Yeo-Jung (2010's THE SERVANT). All the aggressive marketing promotions revolved around THE CONCUBINE has certainly done an excellent job luring curious-minded viewers to find out what makes this movie such a big buzz at the first place. But thanks to its misleading approach, those who are expecting this movie to be an all-out erotic thriller will likely end up disappointed by its overall execution. It's also overrated, even though it remains worthwhile as an intense film noir disguised as a period drama that explores the disturbing nature of obsessive sexual needs, dark morality and psychological depths in a Shakespearean tragedy.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Review: [In Memory of Tony Scott 1944-2012] TRUE ROMANCE (1993)


From his little debut in THE HUNGER (1983) and right up to his slew of big-budget blockbuster hits including TOP GUN (1986), BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987) and DAYS OF THUNDER (1990), director Tony Scott is primarily known for his slick visuals or should I say, his direction is all about "style over substance". But in the fall of 1993, who could have thought that Tony Scott can be unbelievably awesome in TRUE ROMANCE? Thanks to a snappy script by Quentin Tarantino, Scott has no doubt brings a lot of style and substance in one of his finest movies he's ever made.

Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is a lowly comic-book store clerk who really likes Elvis a lot, and a huge fan of Sonny Chiba's movies. When he is watching triple features of Sonny Chiba's STREET FIGHTER trilogy in a local theater at Detroit, he meets Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette), who accidentally spilled a giant cup of popcorn all over him. Within a short time of period, they quickly get to know each other and even end up making love in his apartment. But there's something about Alabama he doesn't know: She confesses that she's actually a call girl being paid by Clarence's boss to get laid for his birthday. And at the same time, she also admits that she has falling madly in love with him.

The next day, they get married instantly but these two cute couples wouldn't rest easy since Alabama's pimp, Drexl (Gary Oldman) still "owns" her. In order to get rid of this problem once and for all, Clarence takes his chance to meet up with Drexl and settles the score. Naturally, his negotiation with Drexl gets pretty ugly but Clarence manages to overcome the problem by killing him and his gang in an inevitable bloody massacre.

While he thinks he gets everything covered, little he knows that the suitcase supposedly filled with Alabama's personal stuff he brought back from Drexl's house -- contains a large amount of uncut cocaine. Knowing that they might get into big trouble, they decide to skip town immediately.

After a short visit with Clarence's estranged dad, Clifford (Dennis Hopper), the couple head off to L.A. in an attempt to sell off the cocaine by enlisting the help of an old friend named Dick Ritchie (Mark Rapaport), an aspiring actor who tries to make a breakthrough. Dick hooks them up with a fellow actor named Elliot (Bronson Pinchot) to sell the cocaine to his boss, a big-time film producer named Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek). Meanwhile, trouble just keeps on coming when a band of mafia hitmen lead by Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) and a pair of wisecracking L.A. cops, Nicky (Chris Penn) and Cody (Tom Sizemore) also involved as well.

It's hard to believe that Quentin Tarantino was originally wanted to direct this movie from his own script after his breakthrough debut in 1992's RESERVOIR DOGS. However he subsequently ended up losing interest in directing and sold the script instead.

At the first glance, the name of Tony Scott isn't much of a shortlist to helm such a movie. But Scott is one heck of a surprise. He certainly displays a lot of passion for pop-culture references (ranging from Elvis, Sonny Chiba, comic book and Vietnam war movies) that remains faithful to Tarantino's original script (even though he does change the non-linear fashion into a conventional straightforward approach as well as tweaked the original ending into a "happy" one). Not surprisingly, the dialogues are infectiously catchy and entertaining. And of course, the stylized violence that Scott delivers with such energetic fashion here -- particularly in the scene involving the bloody motel-room fight between Alabama and one of the mafia hitmen, Virgil (James Gandolfini) (which is trimmed for theatrical release but restored for video) and the violent Mexican standoff finale in the hotel suite which instantly recalled the same ending in RESERVOIR DOGS. But my personal favorite would be the memorable interrogation scene between Vincenzo Coccotti and Clifford where they end up debating about the origin of Sicilians.

Cast-wise, all of them delivers enthusiastic performances. Both Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette made a great reckless couple-on-the-run, while the supporting actors as well as small roles from Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Brad Pitt (who plays Dick's useless roommate, Floyd), Samuel L. Jackson (who plays Big Don, one of the dealers get shot earlier by Drexl), Chris Penn and Tom Sizemore -- are equally fantastic.

TRUE ROMANCE may have been one of those rare studio picture that dares to go further from being too formulaic, the whole "BONNIE AND CLYDE for MTV generation"-like eternal love angle between Clarence and Alabama is somehow flimsy while the movie does tends to get bumpy on and off.

Despite the critical success, it's a shame that viewers doesn't feel the same thing. It tanked at the box office, even though it subsequently becomes a cult favorite when it released on video.

Review: PREMIUM RUSH (2012)


A major motion picture arrived with little fanfare and lack of marketing push (other than that "Ride Like Hell" big tagline), I wasn't expecting much on PREMIUM RUSH since the movie gets bumped from its original January release into late August (also known as a "dumping month" for movie with bad/little buzz). Well, to my surprise, it turns out that PREMIUM RUSH isn't a pile of crap after all. Expect the unexpected, because PREMIUM RUSH is an exhilarating, albeit bumpy ride of an action thriller with B-movie energy.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Review: [In Memory of Tony Scott 1944-2012] REVENGE (1990)

RATING: 2.5/5

After back-to-back, big-budget blockbuster success of TOP GUN (1986) and BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987), director Tony Scott returns to a small-scale picture that recalls his feature-length debut, THE HUNGER (1983). Except of course, his little thriller here in REVENGE, isn't about vampire.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Review: [In Memory of Tony Scott 1944-2012] BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987)

RATING: 2.5/5

Following from his huge success in 1986's TOP GUN which immediately placed him as one of the most sought-after filmmakers in Hollywood, Tony Scott returns with another box-office blockbuster a year later. That is none others than BEVERLY HILLS COP II, which is no doubt, one of the most heavily-anticipated movies back in 1987. Likewise, Scott's movie is always irresistible to look at but unfortunately this sequel suffers from a case of "overkill" and lack that gritty charm the first one had made so successfully back in 1984.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Review: THE SCENT 간통을 기다리는 남자 (2012)


At the first glance, Kim Hyung-Jun's THE SCENT is too hard to resist. It's an interesting mix of erotic thriller in the vein of BASIC INSTINCT with a dash of dramedy and slapstick undertones. That's not all, the movie is also notable for Park Si-Yeon's (2009's MARINE BOY) first controversial appearance in nude scenes. But upon watching this movie with high expectation, especially given all its hype, I was shocked to find out it's a huge disappointment. More on that later.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Review: THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

RATING: 2.5/5

Back in 2010, actor-writer-director Sylvester Stallone has made quite an impression for an all-star (over-the-hill star, to be exact) action extravaganza in THE EXPENDABLES -- a gleefully violent throwback to the '80s mindless action genre. Even though that movie didn't exactly lived up to its high expectation, it's fun and entertaining enough for die-hard action fans. The movie was a surprise hit, and an inevitable sequel is created two years later. So here it is -- THE EXPENDABLES 2 continues the same action-movie tradition of the yesteryears. Oh, wait -- the sequel is also bigger and sometimes better (I get the "better" part later on). But at the same time, it's also quite a disappointment, considering all the massive hype has surrounded this movie. Despite blessing with a $100 million tag, THE EXPENDABLES 2 is pretty much more of the same.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Review: THE FOUR 四大名捕 (2012)


On paper, THE FOUR sounds too good to give this a miss -- it's a martial-art movie that combined wuxia genre and superhero movie in the vein of X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR and THE AVENGERS. Besides that, the movie is adapted from a series of popular novels by Wong Swee Oan, which has been previously made into numerous TV drama series in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. With a seemingly solid Pan-Asian cast in the mix, THE FOUR looks set to be an especially crucial return-to-form by director Gordon Chan, who has been heavily inconsistent in his career these days (*cough* 2008's PAINTED SKIN *cough*). Unfortunately a solid concept alone isn't enough to justify this as a worthwhile entertainment if the execution is awfully poor. As one of the highly-anticipated Chinese movies of the year, it's sad to announce that THE FOUR is a huge disappointment.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Review: THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012)

RATING: 2.5/5

When director Paul Greengrass and lead actor Matt Damon decided to quit the BOURNE franchise after their back-to-back successful collaboration in 2004's THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and 2007's THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, Universal is struggling to continue the lucrative franchise with a fourth installment. And instead of replacing new actor to play Jason Bourne, screenwriter or more appropriately, "the narrative architect" of the BOURNE trilogy, Tony Gilroy, comes up with a different idea by introducing new character and creates a spin-off that would somehow ties back to Jason Bourne. I have to admit it's a risky approach to proceed with the fourth installment without Matt Damon as Jason Bourne (unless if you count his "appearance" in the news footage, photographs, and his name being mentioned). But try hard as Tony Gilroy might, THE BOURNE LEGACY is unfortunately a lackluster espionage thriller that doesn't comes close to the sheer urgency of the BOURNE trilogy did successfully before.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012



Rarely in the case of Hollywood blockbuster that "more of the same thing" or better yet, a deja vu experience are capable to be equally entertaining from both point of view. I'm talking about Robert Ludlum's highly-successful espionage thriller that deals with amnesiac ex-spy Jason Bourne, in which Doug Liman's THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002) raked in $121 million in the box-office, and Paul Greengrass's sequel, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY upstaged the original with an impressive $176 million in the box-office.



The trailer may have been smacked with the same old deja vu feeling of THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002) but what can I say, this by-the-book sequel is nevertheless a refreshing alternative to the hyperkinetic spy thrillers in which everything spells "over-the-top".

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


RATING: 3.5/5

Expect the unexpected. THE BOURNE IDENTITY is a must-see to believe. Based on the Robert Ludlum's action-packed 1980 bestselling novel, the movie centers on an amnesiac who finds himself a deadly target from some highly-trained assassins.

Monday, 6 August 2012



Billed as China's first monster movie, MILLION DOLLAR CROCODILE is essentially a throwback to the B-grade Hollywood monster movie populated in the '80s with a distinctively local flavor. But unfortunately this horror schlock isn't thrilling or funny enough to warrant MILLION DOLLAR CROCODILE as a worthwhile guilty-pleasure entertainment.

TOTAL RECALL: The Battle Of Yesterday And Today

Have you seen the new TOTAL RECALL yet? You can check out my review here, as well as the original 1990 version right here. Despite all the heavily-marketed promotion, the new TOTAL RECALL was inferior compared to Paul Verhoeven's version in many ways. In fact, the reportedly $138 million-budgeted sci-fi blockbuster just opened to an estimated $26 million in the first three days at the U.S. box-office -- a considerably disappointed amount of grosses. Anyway, here's my analysis of the good and the bad between the original TOTAL RECALL and this new version right below.



THE GOOD: He's certainly at the top peak here, delivering a hugely entertaining and gleeful performance who is especially good when quips lots of memorable one-liners. (e.g. "Consider this a divorce")

THE BAD: Well, if it's for nitpicking purpose, his role as Douglas Quaid wasn't actually intended that way if you look at Philip K. Dick's short story. Instead his role here is obviously tailor-made to fit his iconic persona.


THE GOOD: As Douglas Quaid, he looks convincing enough as an everyman kind of role trapped in an unlikely situation. And you can say his role is somewhat faithful to Philip K. Dick's short story.

THE BAD: Okay, so Colin Farrell is hardly a box-office draw if compared to Schwarzenegger. But whichever way it is, Farrell's acting here is noticeably lackluster. He looks constipated throughout the movie and doesn't displays the certain kind of enthusiasm that makes his character all the more interesting to watch for.



THE GOOD: She is perfectly cast here as the bitchy Lori. Nuff' said.

THE BAD: Hmm... Her role is already that perfect, so what more can I say?


THE GOOD: Like Stone, Kate Beckinsale plays the bitchy role to perfection here, even though this is the first time we see her tackled a villainous role.

THE BAD: Well, other than replicating Stone's bitchy persona successfully, there's nothing surprising in her role here.



THE GOOD: She is convincing enough as the kick-ass Melina



THE GOOD: Same as Rachel Ticotin, she is just as good as a kick-ass Melina.

THE BAD: None.



THE GOOD: He's really good when comes to play despicable villain. And a memorable one, too.



THE GOOD: He's an inspired choice...

THE BAD: ... and he's also criminally underused as well. His villainous role is so lame he's simply forgettable.



THE GOOD: His trademark of sex and outrageous violence is all intact here, plus he really knows how to have a lot of fun with enough wits and also he's smart enough not to take things seriously.

THE BAD: For purist who have read Philip K. Dick's short story, Verhoeven's version is a far cry from being faithful to the source material.


THE GOOD: He knows how to direct a summer-movie blockbuster loaded with considerable amount of guilty-pleasure moments.

THE BAD: He remains floundered when comes to storytelling and characters development. Till now, he's all style but no substance.



THE GOOD: The combination of miniature sets and special effects are admirable at that time.

THE BAD: By today's standard, the effects in 1990's TOTAL RECALL looks dated.


THE GOOD: The elaborate setting here is quite a sight to behold.

THE BAD: Nothing original about the setting here, as it shamelessly rip off from BLADE RUNNER, MINORITY REPORT and I, ROBOT.



THE GOOD: Despite all the gleefully over-the-top violence rather extreme for a major movie blockbuster, the action are surprisingly fun and compulsively watchable. Not to mention it has that muscular vibe into it.

THE BAD: For some people, the action might proves unnecessarily violent.


THE GOOD: Director Len Wiseman knows action, and he delivers here with an equal flair. The hover chase and the catfight between Lori and Melina are among the prime examples.

THE BAD: Despite occasional flashes of brilliance in term of action, there are tends to be repetitive here and I must say, rather generic.



THE GOOD: Fast-paced and relentless enough to keep one entertained from start till the end.

THE BAD: Skimpy, lack of narrative thrust and little substance.


THE GOOD: Equally fast-paced and has all the necessary elements of a typical summer-movie blockbuster.

THE BAD: Patchy in places, and despite some of the makeovers, nothing much is changed between this one and the original version -- even without the Mars setting.



THE GOOD: His orchestral music score is thunderous and epic enough to earn this as among the most memorable soundtrack ever heard for a major movie blockbuster.

THE BAD: None.



THE BAD: His electronic score is so typical as if he goes auto-pilot composing the new music score for this movie here.


If you are going to remake a genre classic like TOTAL RECALL, fancy gadgets and look-at-me filmmaking style alone isn't enough to set the new version apart. But of course, it's nothing surprising anyway especially Hollywood often fails to capitalize the original success with a new version.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Review: TOTAL RECALL (2012)

RATING: 2.5/5

Back in 1990, Paul Verhoeven's TOTAL RECALL was an outrageously violent, sci-fi action extravaganza that had been hailed as genre classic. More than a decade later, TOTAL RECALL has made a comeback -- with some makeover. This time, there's no Mars at sight and the lead character of Douglas Quaid isn't the muscle-bound Arnold Schwarzenegger-type but instead replaced by an everyman kind of role played by Colin Farrell. And of course, the movie reduced its sex and violence significantly from a hard R-rating to an audience-friendly PG-13. Yup, Len Wiseman's $138 million-budgeted remake has all the necessary elements of a typical summer-movie blockbuster, except that this new TOTAL RECALL lacks the playful enthusiasm the way Verhoeven did successfully the first time around.


In conjunction for the opening week of Len Wiseman's remake of TOTAL RECALL (review coming soon!), here's my in-depth review on Paul Verhoeven's original 1990 version of TOTAL RECALL:


Riding on the success of his Hollywood directorial debut in 1987's ROBOCOP, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven hits jackpot again with another sci-fi blockbuster, TOTAL RECALL -- which was one of the most expensive movies ever made (at an estimated $65 million) up to that time. But fortunately TOTAL RECALL was a solid box-office hit (grossing at $119 million in the U.S. alone) when the movie hits theaters in the summer of 1990 with lots of fanfare. That amount of fanfare, was of course, thanks largely to the commitment of action superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his most memorable roles ever seen in his career.

But back then, TOTAL RECALL was originally conceived as a very different movie altogether than what we had come to know for. The movie was first noted when Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, writers of ALIENS (1986), bought the rights to Philip K. Dick's short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale and wrote the original script. But they were unable to find investors for the project and subsequently being passed over from studio to studio.

Until in the mid-1980s, producer Dino De Laurentiis took over the project and attached either Richard Dreyfuss or Patrick Swayze in the lead role. It was then David Cronenberg (THE FLY, DEAD RINGERS) was attached to direct but wanted to cast William Hurt in the lead role instead. When Cronenberg was still attached in the project, he had written about 12 drafts but eventually dropped out after creative indifference with Shusett. It was reported that Shusett wanted a more action-packed feel of TOTAL RECALL while Cronenberg's several drafts were more cerebral-type and close to Philip K. Dick's version.

However this was the stage where De Laurentiis himself had lost confidence on the project especially after the adaptation of DUNE (1984) flopped miserably at the box-office. At the same time when De Laurentiis was still attached in the project, director Bruce Beresford (DRIVING MISS DAISY) was also considered to direct the movie as well and he had even constructed a complete set.

The production went totally haphazard when De Laurentiis's company filed bankruptcy following from a string of unsuccessful movies, and subsequently provided a golden chance for Schwarzenegger who had been eyeing the project for a while. He persuaded Carolco to buy the rights to the movie and also obtained a near-complete control over the production. He even personally handpicked Paul Verhoeven to direct the movie, having been impressed by ROBOCOP (in which Schwarzenegger was ironically considered for the title role but eventually lost to Peter Weller). At this stage of the production, there were already a whopping 42 drafts had been written. Of course, the rest was history.

Set in the year 2084 where Mars has become a colony of Earth, the movie centers on an ordinary construction worker named Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger) who has a beautiful wife, Lori (Sharon Stone) and live in a perfect home. Despite a fairly perfect life for Quaid, he always had a vivid dream every night finding himself in the Mars with a mysterious woman he has never met. So he decides to pay a visit to Rekall Inc., a virtual "travel" agency that specializes in implanting artificial memories of vacations into its customers' brains. Quaid ended up purchasing a memory of a trip to Mars with a special package of an "Ego Trip" which allows him to take his "trip" as another person -- which is a "secret agent". When the doctors begin the implant, the procedure goes horribly wrong. Even before the memory is implanted, Quaid has gone bizarrely insane and claims that he's the secret agent from Mars. The doctors ended up tranquilize Quaid and release him. From there, things goes out of hand when Quaid is subsequently attacked by his co-workers and also surprised to find out that his wife is actually an agent assigned to fake a marriage life with him. Not long after, Quaid is on the run as he is being pursued by the ruthless Richter (Michael Ironside) who works for the Mars dictator Cohaagen (Ronny Cox). He is subsequently hooks up with old flame Melina (Rachel Ticotin), the mysterious woman of his dream who reminds him of his past life and his importance on the rebellion currently happened on Mars.

Despite the whodunit-like plot, we never really comes to know the true identity of Quaid. Is he actually a secret agent or the whole thing is just a dream? If you are expecting the more cerebral feel of Philip K. Dick's original short story, you'll be disappointed to find out that Paul Verhoeven's version of TOTAL RECALL is more to his outrageous, balls-to-the-wall action extravaganza with all his trademark (read: sex and violence) intact. Forget about the depth of the narrative points here, because TOTAL RECALL is all about action and of course, the never-ending memorable quips from Schwarzenegger himself. 

While such stripped-down manner might hurts the credibility of this movie, it's an absolute surprise that the movie remains highly entertaining. Thanks to the airtight editing by Carlos Puente and Frank J. Urioste, the pace is relentless with exciting action sequences after another. Likewise, Verhoeven's over-the-top direction works well in his favor with all the gleefully violent scenes he's never afraid to show in a major motion picture. Best of all, he made a right choice not to take things seriously and manages to find balance to satisfy die-hard action fans with enough explosive entertainment and memorable sense of humor.

The cast are also part of the success that made the movie so compulsively watchable. Arnold Schwarzenegger is in top form here. He's an absolute joy to watch for, from the way he handles his action scenes to the one he quips all his memorable one-liners in such high enthusiasm. By now, you should know that one of his most memorable one-liners in his movies is none others than "Consider this a divorce". As Lori, Sharon Stone is perfectly cast in a bitchy role while Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox are well-cast as despicable villains. Lastly, Rachel Ticotin is athletic enough as the kick-ass Melina.

While the Oscar-winning special effects are somewhat dated by today's standard, it remains admirable back then. The rest of the production credits are equally top-notch, while Jerry Goldsmith's orchestral music score is certainly ranks as among the most memorable soundtrack ever heard in a major Hollywood blockbuster.

And I must admit this movie demands repeated viewings and frankly I never gets bored watching it. It's a rarity for a major Hollywood blockbuster so gleefully fun and violent, yet the plot is skimpy, manages to stand the test of time since more than a decade of this release.