Monday, August 29, 2011

The 33D Invader aka The Fruit Is Ripe 33D Trailer And Stills

The trailer for The 33D Invader a.k.a The Fruit is ripe 33D has been released, the first of what I imagine will be many attempts to cash in on the success of 3D Sex and Zen Extreme ecstasy. Directed by the wonderfully named Cash Chin and starring a bevy of lovely girls, the film puts a science fiction spin on the genre in addition to using the 3rd dimension. The film looks like it borrows heavily from James Cameron's Terminator and appears to use the same alleyway featured in PTU.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Punished Review

This review contains unavoidable spoilers, proceed with caution!

A new Milkyway Image crime movie, Law Wing Cheong's Punished has many familiar elements. It stars many of the Milkyway regulars (Where was Lam Suet though?), and yes it covers similar ground to many of the stable's films. However the movie was not as I expected, I saw this in both a positive and negative light. It has a significantly different feel to other Milkyway crime films, much less of a stylistic action exercise, this is a serious character drama, punctuated with only brief sporadic action and a few nasty moments. Having seen Punished twice now I'm somewhere between the two points, it has plenty to like but a weak screenplay in particular, prevents the film from being the success it could have been.

Beginning as a kidnap story, the film plays with expectations early on by revealing the result of the abduction. Once this is established a non linear narrative is used to take us to various points in and around the kidnapping throughout the film's present. We then see the real meat of Punished is the revenge the ruthless Wong Ho Chiu (Anthony Wong) vows on the kidnappers and more importantly the emotional trauma his revenge wreaks on his own psyche, as bodyguard Chor (Richie Jen) tracks down the men responsible.

Starting with the negative points, Punished goes for real thematic and character based depth, more so than other Milkyway productions. Unfortunately as I have already said the screenplay is not of a high enough quality for this to be entirely successful, and worse still it takes itself so seriously that it thinks it has more depth than it actually does. In addition to this a few instances of really lazy writing threaten to derail the entire film. In the best films from Milkyway, the characters are given added depth, not necessarily through the script but more from the filmmaking style. The skill of making use of the kind of communication possible through glances and actions is a huge strength of their movies. This is not the case with Punished, the visual style is a little flat, and at least as far as the screenplay is concerned, everything is spelled out for the viewer, with the fractured timeline being the only attempt to keep the viewer on their toes.

Punished does achieve a level of depth uncommon in much of Hong Kong cinema, mostly through it's two lead actors. Anthony Wong's Wong Ho Chiu runs a hugely successful real estate company in Hong Kong (is there any other kind in HK?), however his management style is autocratic to say the least, he also expects his employee's do whatever it takes to get the job done, no matter how dirty. This leadership philosophy extends to the treatment of his family, being a dictator at home as well as at work. This all makes for what should be a completely unsympathetic lead, however Wong brings so much to the role you can't help but empathise with him no matter what he does. The scenes of conflict with his rebellious and thoroughly horrible daughter Daisy feel uncomfortably real, and it isn't hard to see where she gets her attitude from. His handling of his own disintegration, throughout the vengeance process is truly superb. Knowing what he is doing to himself but needing to see it through, if there is a better performance in a Hong Kong movie in the last year, I need to see it.

Richie Jen's Chor is somewhat of a revelation to me, he has been in some excellent films but has never really registered with me as a particularly good actor. Jen looked suitably bad ass and cool in Johnnie To's Exiled but it wasn't really a role that required much acting ability. In Punished he really stood out, a character who should be unlikeable is given complexity by Jen, and like Wong I feel it's more what the actor brings to the table than what was on the page. A sub plot of Chor's own parental problems is extremely well done, and he's completely convincing as the instrument of Wong's revenge.

Aside from the leads, Janice Man is perhaps too convincing as Daisy, she fails to elicit any sympathy whatsoever despite her predicament as she is so vile a character. She's so bad for part of the movie Wong wonders if she actually faked the abduction to claim the ransom herself! Much more sympathetic is category III veteran Charlie Cho, playing one of Wong's employees, who is pushed to breaking point and beyond.

The film is technically adept, as you would expect from a Milkyway production but without anything exceptional to stand out. The photography is fine but unremarkable, the few action sequences are nicely done without managing to be as exciting as they perhaps could have been. The best aspect of the movie outside of the acting is the score by Dave Klotz and Guy Zerafa, although it is quite a traditional soundtrack compared with other Milkyway scores.

Punished is a pretty bleak movie that is completely devoid of humour, so bleak is the film I wasn't convinced by the few moments of hope that are in there. I did really like the film but it has serious issues preventing it from being a whole hearted recommendation, particularly if you're not a fan of Milkyway's films. If you are a fan, the acting is great and it's almost enough to lift the film to a level the script doesn't really deserve to reach, however a few moments can't help dragging it back down to a solid film rather than a great one. It's an interesting diversion for the company but not an entirely successful one.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cool Crap : Exiled Hardback Press Book UPDATED With More Pics

Here is the Hardback press book for Johnnie To's awesome Exiled. This book was used to promote the movie at the 63rd Venice film festival. It has the usual information on cast and crew but is presented in a really nice way, with excellent photos and fold outs, overlaid with quotes from the dialogue. A really cool piece of crap!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

HKMS Episode 3 Lifeline

A series of HK movie synopses regurgitated verbatim from the dvd/vcd/laserdisc cover.

A disastrous grade-5 fire broke out (meaning that everybody must evacuate). There are lots of dangerous goods, start leaking poisonous gas and cause explosion. There are still people trapped, awaiting rescue, Firemen including Wan (Lau Ching Wan), still inside the building, decide to continue rescuing... Do they succeed evacuating eventually?

It seems even Johnnie To isn't exempt from terrible dvd synopsis syndrome, this one from the Universe dvd for his firefighting drama Lifeline is pretty bad. I love how the writer feels the need to point out everyone must evacuate "A disastrous grade-5 fire".

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

John Carpenter's In The Mouth Of Madness

Released just a few months after Wes Craven's New Nightmare, John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness mines a similar vein of meta horror. Carpenter's movie is less successful than Craven's attempt but is still an interesting and enjoyable film.

John Trent (Sam Neill) is an insurance investigator, hired to find the missing horror novelist Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow), think along the lines of H.P. Lovecraft meets Stephen King but even more successful. Trent is convinced Cane's disappearance is a publicity stunt by his publishing company to promote his latest book and is partnered with Cane's editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) to track him down. Trent soon finds he is way off the mark, as the impact of Cane's imagination begins to influence his readers and the real world in violent and terrifying ways.

Made in 1994, In the Mouth of Madness looks and feels like a 1980's John Carpenter movie, and is without doubt his best post 80's film. The central premise of the film is an excellent concept and it's unfortunate that the film doesn't get the best out of it. While the movie has a few stand out ideas, some good practical effects and a solid central performance from Sam Neill, Carpenter and writer Michael DeLuca can't quite manage to hide the feeling they came up with a great idea but didn't quite know what to do with it. Carpenter would go on to use a similar idea for his Masters of Horror TV episode Cigarette Burns, replacing the written word with film. Once again the full potential of a great idea was unrealised with this project, although the episode, like this film does have merit.

Clearly this man is insane
Having said In the Mouth of Madness is Carpenter's best post 80's film, as most of his fans will agree that doesn't necessarily mean that much considering his decline through the 90's to present. The film is too unfocused to be classed as top tier Carpenter. It does have some great moments, particularly the scene with Cane's agent approaching the coffee shop window with axe in hand and the ending is very good too. It's a very handsome looking movie and has a fun sense of humour without sacrificing it's tone,  always a difficult thing to pull off.

My main gripe with the film is where Craven's New Nightmare fully supported the horror genre by using it as a positive thing, Carpenter's film could be interpreted by an audience who don't know Carpenter's movies and love for horror as an attack on both the genre and it's fans. Let me make it clear, this is not how I interpret the film, I just think it leaves itself open to that option. Overall an entertaining and solid horror piece which still managed to leave me feeling slightly disappointed as it had ideas that could have made for a classic, however it's still definitely worth seeing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Full Trailer For Dexter Season Six

Full trailer for season six of Dexter. I'm so excited for Dexter's return and this trailer has only increased my sense of anticipation. After the intensity of the last two seasons I was concerned the show's writers wouldn't be able to maintain the momentum but on the strength of this trailer, my worries appear unfounded, it looks fantastic!

Watch in High definition here

The Great Magician First Teaser Trailer And More Posters

The first teaser trailer for Derek Yee's The Great Magician has been released, the first thing that strikes me about this is Lau Ching Wan's amazing stache!

More posters too, including a chance to look at Lau Ching Wan's full get up.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Amazing Trailer For Paths Of Hate

While browsing this morning I came across this amazing trailer for the Polish animated short film Paths of Hate, directed by Damian Nenow.

Available up to 1080p HD here

The trailer has been around for a while but I'd never heard of it. I think the comic book style art looks incredible and the animation of it superbly done. The full 10 minute short has been shown at a few festivals but isn't available online as yet, although apparently it will be quite soon.

For more information on Paths of Hate, visit the film's website here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Johnnie To's Throwdown Blu Ray Review

If you would like to read my review of Throwdown and the Tai Seng dvd release I am using as a comparison click here

After what feels like an age, the blu ray of Johnnie To's Throwdown has arrived. Despite some trepidation about ordering another Kam & Ronson blu ray after poor experiences with Iron Monkey and Bullet in the head, I decided to take a chance anyway based on the theory of it being a more recent film. Earlier this week I was buoyed by Phantom of pulp's enthusiastic recommendation of K & R's Running out of time blu ray. I've taken a good look at the Throwdown blu ray and compared it against the Tai Seng dvd.

I'm really pleased to report the disc looks fantastic, projected onto a 90 inch screen the difference between the two discs is night and day. Which is how it should be of course when stepping up to blu ray, but unfortunately often isn't the case as far as Hong Kong releases are concerned.

The contrast is significantly better than the dvd image and the colours have a remarkable vibrancy to them. The print has a few blemishes here and there but certainly nothing to worry about, if anything they give the transfer an even more film like appearance.

As well as the significant increase in image quality, the audio receives an impressive upgrade via a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack. Comparing this with the already very good DTS track on the dvd, the TrueHD track has a more open and natural sound with better channel separations.

Subtitles (from memory) appear similar if not the same as the ones on the HK dvd and are inferior to the re-translated subs on the Tai Seng dvd. Extras wise the blu ray is missing some from the dvd, with only the trailer and a making of included.

The hit and miss nature of Kam & Ronson's Hong Kong blu ray releases continues. Luckily the Throwdown release is a hit. One of my favourite Johnnie To movies has a blu ray to cherish, and one to aspire to for future releases. Now if only we could see similar releases for The Mission and A Hero never dies!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Robotrix : Cat III Part 12

Jamie Luk Kim Ming's Robotrix is a category III classic to many, and tasteless trash to many more. I lean towards the latter camp but it certainly does have it's moments of fun, both intentional and otherwise.

A Japanese robot engineer develops a technique to transfer his mind into a cyborg (Billy Chow). He goes on a murderous crime spree in his new seemingly invincible body. One of his victims is a cop (Chikako Aoyama). She too is made into a cyborg and along with her cop boyfriend (David Wu) and another cyborg (Amy Yip) they set out to end Billy Chow's reign of terror. Trying to describe the plot of Robotrix is extremely difficult as it's such a jumbled mess of ideas stolen from many science fiction films, the obvious one being Robocop. Add in some horny, comedy cops, gory violence and ample sex and nudity and what you end up with is a mess.

A low budget sleaze fest, with mostly laughable filmmaking and production values. A perfect example of this is the early scene of the supposedly futuristic robot design show, which is hilariously funny. To be fair it's a quite ambitious undertaking to make a film in this genre, especially on a low budget, but this is where the quality of the screenplay needed to be better. The film feels thrown together, with the slight story not being enough to sustain a ninety minute running time, many scenes feel padded well beyond their welcome.

The film certainly delivers on it's category III elements and these are obviously all important to a film like this. Plenty of gory violence, albeit with some cheap looking effects and more than it's fair share of sex scenes and nudity. Yet again Amy Yip frustrates her legion of fans by managing to cover herself up by any means possible, although the ample charms of Chikako Aoyama make up for this to some extent. A particularly nasty scene between Billy Chow's cyborg and a hooker provides a gobsmacking reminder that they don't make them like this anymore!

Robotrix is a perfect example of why I don't have a rating system for movies, how would you score a film like this? In terms of the quality of story telling and filmmaking skill involved, it's terrible. On the other hand, while it has virtually no redeeming features, it is pretty hilarious and even though much of the humour is unintentional, there is undeniable fun to be had here. With a film like this, you know exactly what you're in for and if you're in the right frame of mind, you could certainly waste an hour and a half on a lot worse, this says more for me than any rating I could give it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Recent Buys Everything Else From August

Here are all the non Asian buys from this month. Another nicely eclectic mix of titles, with a little bias towards westerns, spaghetti and otherwise.

Jan Svankmajer's Alice blu ray, I'm a huge fan of Svankmajer and a high def release of one of his movies was just too much to resist.

Sergio Corbucci's masterpiece The Great Silence, an extremely welcome anamorphic upgrade for this fantastic S.W. One of the best outside of the Leone's.

John Carpenter's In the mouth of madness, one of the few Carpenter's that I hadn't seen and for some reason very hard to find, I picked up the HK release for next to nothing. The transfer is very dark but is anamorphic and generally pretty good.

Nicholas Ray's influential western Johnny Guitar, a western on my list of shame, I've always meant to see it but never got around to it, the dvd is apparently great so now is my chance!

Grant Gee's excellent documentary on one of my favourite bands, I've already covered this here

The last remaining Peckinpah movie I haven't seen Major Dundee and what a great cast it has, the second film this month to have Charlton Heston in it.

I'd been waiting for a chance to pick this up on the cheap, 11 hours of action from the 2009 Ashes series, some of the most intense drama in sport. Tedium for some but manna for me!

While looking at The Great Silence, I came across this oddity from Sergio Corbucci titled Samurai, what looks like a knock off of Red Sun. I bought it from ebay, and of course it's a bootleg. When I've looked into it, it's actually Il Bianco, Il Giallo, Il Nero. Not only is it a bootleg but it's probably the worst one I've ever seen. The quality is truly terrible and as it's a full screen presentation, it regularly features conversations between characters who can only partially be seen, I've taken a screen grab below.

Needless to say I will be requesting a refund!

First Full Trailer For Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate

First full trailer for Tsui Hark and Jet Li's Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. The trailer doesn't give much away but it looks pretty stylish. Hoping for Tsui Hark to continue his recovery with this, we'll see.

Watch in HD here

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recent Buys August Hong Kong And Asian Film

Time for another round up of what I've been buying in the last month or so, it's a nice eclectic bunch of titles again and I've done a little better on the Hong Kong front this time.

Ringo Lam's excellent City on fire on blu ray, I've been burned before with HK blu ray releases but this one is apparently very good, look out for a review soon.

Sion Sono's amazing Cold Fish on blu ray, read my review here

Always wanted to see this gross out horror Devil Fetus, another category III "classic"

Achillesgirl's post on Anthony Wong's character in The Kingdom of mob made me eager to see this film even though she doesn't like the movie.

A bizarre mixture of Robocop and category III shenanigans in the hilarious Robotrix.

Wai Ka Fai's Written by starring the great Lau Ching Wan. Picked this up cheaply from Amazon marketplace, really looking forward to watching this.

Look out for everything else non Asian soon!

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