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.