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".