Wednesday, February 29, 2012

HKMS : Himalaya Singh

A series of HK movie synopses regurgitated verbatim from the dvd/vcd/laserdisc cover, or in this case the even more useless than usual Databank "special" feature on the dvd itself.

Lau Ching Wan

Singh (Ronald Cheng) is borne and grown up in Himalayas and has reached the ultimate stage in Yoga. He goes to participate the India Beauty's husband-to-be contest. He meets the wanna-be-married Tally (Cherrie In). Tally proposed to induce Singh to be a rotten, so India Beauty has a bad husband. Uncle Panic (Lau Ching Wan) goes traveling to India with his two nephews (Shine). Uncle Brave (Francis Ng) who is one of the tourists has absolutely opposite character. Uncle Panic bumps into several India robbers who hypnotize him and was brought into the Journey of Illusion by The Peacock (Cecilia Chang). Uncle Brave and the two nephews gulp down India Magical Oil accidentally and lose their memory. King of Yoga recognizes Uncle Brave is Singh mistakenly. Dramatically, Singh, Uncle Panic and Uncle Brave fight in the contest. Who can win? Or is it only a dream?

Did you get all that?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The (Royal Warriors) Faces Of Michael Wong

Michael Wong Royal Warriors

Lip Curl

Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors

Goofy 2

Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors

Yes Madam

Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors

Running Scared

Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors

Pain 2

Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Michael Wong Royal Warriors

Upside Down

Michael Wong Royal Warriors


Sunday, February 26, 2012

More January Dvds And Blus

Following on from this post, here are some more dvd and blu rays, most of them from January.

As Justified, based on Elmore Lenoard's Fire In The Hole, returned to US screens in January I picked up a couple of other adaptations of his work. 52 Pick Up starring the ever dependable Roy Schieder which I haven't seen and the excellent Mr Majestyk starring Charles Bronson. The quality of Justified continues to amaze, some had criticised it's slow burn nature in it's first two seasons but the third is moving at pace. If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favour and step into Raylan Givens' world.

Dario Argento : The Neo Giallo Collection, Arrow's box set featuring Opera, The Stendhal Syndrome, Sleepless and The Card Player. I picked this up for Opera alone, and for a while at least this box set was cheaper than Opera was to buy individually. I haven't seen any of the other three films, popular opinion suggests they get worse as they go on. It was a worthwhile purchase for Opera which I really enjoyed revisiting, although as is often the case with Arrow's products it isn't perfect, they've made a huge mistake with the English 5.1 sound mix, rendering it unlistenable.

Grindhouse, Rodriguez and Tarantino's commercial disaster (at the time at least, it wouldn't surprise me if it's actually made money by now) on blu ray and finally the chance to see it in it's original form. I did buy the Japanese import dvd but sold it on before ever actually watching it when I heard rumours of a blu ray release. How much the film will benefit from the HD upgrade remains to be seen given the intentional digital tampering applied to the movie.

Drive steelbook, I'm not really bothered about the steelbook thing that many people have a voracious appetite for but I didn't like the regular cover of the UK release and so thought this was a better option. As for the film, repeat viewings have only strengthened my opinion of it being the best film of 2011.

Confessions of a Dog, I'd been meaning to pick this dvd up ever since hearing the GGTMC guys cover it on their excellent podcast, and was reminded about it by Ken from So Good Reviews on Facebook. It's also great being able to help support UK companies like Third Window who released the dvd.

More to come soon!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Escape From LA

Kurt Russell Plissken poster

John Carpenter, one of the most revered and popular of all genre filmmakers, a director who for a number of years could do no wrong. Delivering classic after classic working outside of the Hollywood system, utilising huge amounts of talent and skill, often with little money. Aside from Dario Argento, it's difficult to think of another director who has fallen so spectacularly from grace over the latter part of their career as John Carpenter has. After his last classic movie They Live in 1988, Carpenter's decline began with his big budget Memoirs of an Invisible Man. A critical and commercial flop, since then only In The Mouth Of Madness has seen him approaching a good film.

When it was announced Carpenter would reunite with Kurt Russell for a sequel to Escape from New York, it's fair to say my excitement level was through the roof. Written by Carpenter, Debra Hill and Russell himself after L.A's 1994 earthquake, the sequel would be Escape From LA. Upon it's release in 1996 the film was another critical and commercial disaster for Carpenter, so much so I couldn't bring myself to see it at the time. Now finally, sixteen years later I got hold of the US blu ray, hoping to be surprised by an underrated gem or at the very least have a good time.

kurt Russell Plissken

A 9.6 rated Earthquake has devastated Los Angeles, making it an island and destroying much of it. The island becomes a deportation zone, effectively a prison colony for the citizens of America who don't fit in with the President's (Cliff Robertson) new moral America, where even the smallest of vices can see you banished to the hell of LA. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is called back into action by the US government, when the President's daughter (A.J. Langer) steals a black box, a dangerous weapon for terrorist Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface). Given the job of recovering the device, Plissken is understandably reluctant to become involved, he's "encouraged" to co-operate by being infected with a deadly virus, giving him ten hours to escape LA with the box and get back for the antidote.

Kurt Russell Plissken

Where to begin with Escape From LA? I'm afraid my hopes of being able to launch into a passionate defence of Carpenter's movie were quickly dashed. Escape is nothing more than a travesty of a film and to be honest I'm amazed it's reputation isn't lower than it is. Carpenter's intentions appear to have been purely and simply to attempt to satirise Los Angeles of the 90's, which would be fine except it all feels so heavy handed and unfortunately isn't very funny. Maybe in 1996 it would have come across as being a little more subtle but somehow I doubt it.

Okay so the satire doesn't work, what about the tough guy action? Surely Plissken can deliver the goods here? The life blood for a film like this are it's action scenes and again here the film is a huge let down, partially through some clearly terrible ideas of shoe horning sports related action into the film, partly through poor execution and partly down to some truly atrocious special effects, both CG and optical. The CG technology may have been young when this movie was made but this does not excuse just how bad these effects are, so much so it's impossible not to be taken out of the film. If the budget wasn't high enough to do these scenes to a competent enough level then surely the scenes could have just been re-written for something more realistic. This was previously always one of Carpenter's main strengths.

Kurt Russell Plissken

Everything that made Escape From New York such a landmark movie is missing from this sequel. The story itself is close enough to the original for it to almost be considered a remake, yet despite the larger than life attitude to every aspect of the production it all feels extremely flat. An interesting and exciting cast is largely wasted, given little to do in mostly glorified walk on parts and considering the line up includes Stacy Keach, Steve Buscemi, Bruce Campbell, Peter Fonda and Pam Grier it's a real waste. The biggest disappointment though is Kurt Russell himself, Plissken is one of the all time great film characters but in revisiting him, Russell is like a waxwork version of him. Although he still looks the part it really feels like his heart isn't in it and I'm not at all sure why.

Which brings me to John Carpenter himself. Escape From LA feels like him taking pot shots at Hollywood from within, all well and good except when your film is as bad as this one, you aren't really in a position to throw stones. Completely lacking in the strengths the original film showed, Escape From LA is a complete mess. In it's desire to satirise anything and everything it becomes ridiculously camp and trashy, and this combined with it's inherently cheap and tacky effects proves to be too much for the lazy writing, and the performance of Russell to overcome. I'm afraid John Carpenter and Kurt Russell have to shoulder the blame for this sorry mess, what could have been great, is simply terrible.

Kurt Russell Plissken poster

Friday, February 24, 2012

US Trailer For Gareth Evans' The Raid And WTF Rename

Gareth Evans Poster

The momentum behind Gareth Evans' The Raid just keeps on building, now we have the US trailer for the film. So high is the level of hype, I have to question if it will be able to reach it when it is finally released in May in the UK.

Sony in their wisdom have decided to rename the film The Raid : Redemption, who knows why? The Raid was punchy and to the point, adding Redemption to the end will, I imagine, cause confusion in the average moviegoer and it would be a shame if the film loses even a single viewer to this silly change.

Watch it in HD here

New Dragon Inn Re-release

Probably due to the recent release of Tsui Hark's Flying Swords of Dragon Gate but equally possibly due to the lack of a new Donnie Yen release this week, Raymond Lee's Dragon Inn has been spruced up for another go at the box office. Re-titled New Dragon Inn and with Donnie Yen being pushed to the forefront, not even he can steal the limelight from the true stars of the movie, the luminous Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin. One of the best examples of the early 90's Wu Xia genre, if you've never seen this wonderful film, now is your chance, don't miss it.

Donnie Yen Maggie Cheung

Donnie Yen Tony Leung

Maggie Cheung Brigitte Lin

Apparently the remastering process has been ongoing for two years, as it's highly unlikely I'll get a chance to see this theatrically, the best I can hope for is maybe a worthwhile blu ray release, I can only hope.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Red Sun

Bronson Mifune Delon Andress

Bronson, Delon, Mifune, three of the greatest names in genre cinema, if only someone had thought to put them all in a film together, wait a minute they did! In Terrence Young's 1971 multinational western Red Sun. Throw into the mix the original bond girl Ursula Andress and the only logical answer is yes please.

Link (Bronson) and Gauche (Delon) and their men target a train for a robbery, on the train is a Japanese ambassador on his way to give the US president a gift (a valuable gold sword) from the Japanese emperor. Gauche steals the sword and double crosses Link, in the process killing a Japanese guard. Kuroda (Mifune), the remaining guard is forced to team up with Link to track down Gauche, Link wanting the stolen money and Kuroda his head. At first distrustful of each other, the two men must put aside their vast cultural differences to find the man they seek. They track down Cristina (Andress) hoping she will bring Gauche to them for the inevitable confrontation.

Bronson Delon Mifune Andress

A multinational western, incorporating the traditional iconic figures from the Eastern and Western versions of the genre, also featuring the French version of Le Samourai, brought together by European money, a British director and made with distinct European Western sensibilities. Quite a mix.

Unsurprisingly the film's strength is it's cast, with all the leads working wonders with what they are given, Bronson has rarely been as funny, Mifune's stoicism and stubborn streak is hilarious and the scenes the two share as they butt heads and try to outwit each other are comfortably where Red Sun works best. Delon is great too, albeit with much less screen time, playing the villain with devilish glee. Andress has little to do but look pretty, but she's good at that so it's enough. The movie also features a smattering of violence and even a little nudity (including Andress briefly).

Bronson Delon Mifune Andress

So far so good, yet something is missing, something that prevents the film becoming the sum of it's parts. Firstly, the direction from Terence Young is lifeless, the man who made some of the very best James Bond films should have done better. In fairness I have only seen the movie full frame so it could be that losing the widescreen framing affects this but I'm not sure. Most of the action scenes aren't very exciting either, with the exception of the ending set in a corn field, which is nicely done.

Bronson Delon Mifune Andress

Red Sun's biggest problem though is the muddled script, it starts out fine, about half way in though the story becomes muddled and the film begins to drag a little, before picking itself back up for the finale. A good fifteen minutes could have easily been snipped to make the movie more punchy and would have done wonders for it. The film also looks quite cheap in places, as though they ran out of money and thought the actors were enough to carry it through anyway.

Bronson Delon Mifune Andress

Could Red Sun have been better? Yes. Should Red Sun have been better? Definitely. Still if you are a fan of any of the leads (and surely you must be to be reading this blog), the movie is worth your time, the chemistry on display between Bronson and Mifune is worth seeing the film for alone. In addition to this the film has a few interesting ideas (mostly wasted unfortunately) about the western genre and it's international variations, and while superficially entertaining, ultimately Red Sun has to be classed as a disappointment. Given the incredible cast and the fun performances they give, the film still lacks a vital spark. A real shame but perhaps not surprising as the expectations were always going to be sky high given the talent involved.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bomb Disposal Officer Baby Boom

Anthony Wong Lau Ching Wan

Jamie Luk's 1994 film Bomb Disposal Officer Baby Bomb sports one of the more unusual English language movie title translations that I've seen, and the film itself continues the offbeat tone established by the title throughout it's running time. Luk had a habit of making amusing low budget movies, this is the second one I've covered after The Case Of The Cold Fish. While Bomb Disposal Officer isn't as good a movie as that later film, as much of the comedy is a little too broad in comparison, there is still more than enough here to enjoy here if you're in the right mood.

Anthony Wong Lau Ching Wan

A crazy bomber is on the loose in Hong Kong, planting home made bombs around the city. John (Anthony Wong) and Peter (Lau Ching Wan) are the bomb disposal officers called to defuse the bomber's work. The two men are best friends and flatmates, and enjoying their carefree single lives, then they meet Mary (Esther Kwan), a similarly free spirit. After a drunken night of partying, the three awake in bed together. Mary later finds she is pregnant and either man could be the father. John and Peter bicker over who is the father of the child, neither wanting to take responsibility. The bomber makes things personal when he targets the bomb disposal unit, raising the stakes higher and higher as he kidnaps Mary.

Anthony Wong Lau Ching Wan

Essentially a romantic comedy, the kind that Hollywood loved to make in the 90's but of course done Hong Kong style, so instead of something soft for our leading men to overcome before the obligatory happy ending, here we have a bomber who blows up a child in the opening sequence! Much of the fun in Jamie Luk's film comes from the casting of Anthony Wong and Lau Chung Wan in the lead roles. The two share great chemistry and are completely believable as best friends, Lau Ching Wan in particular has a real flair for comedy. Esther Kwan makes a good foil for the two leads and again, the chemistry between them is very natural. The dramatic scenes don't work as well as the comedic ones do, and often feel like they could be from a completely different movie but it's all part of the charm of Hong Kong cinema.

It should almost go without saying but if you're a fan of either of the leads, you should certainly give this a go. If not, it's disposable for sure but Bomb Disposal Officer Baby Bomb is well worth a look for Hong Kong fans looking for something a little different. After all where else can you see Bunman pulling (really) awkward shapes to a Christian singalong?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Once Upon A Time In Triad Society 2

Cha Chuen Yee's unrelated sequel to his own Once Upon a Time In Triad Society has a more straight forward narrative than the first film, taking place over the course of one afternoon and night. What the sequel lacks in tricks it makes up for in heart, with nicely developed characters taking precedence over the first films absurdity. The real ace the movie has up it's sleeve though is the returning Francis Ng, playing a completely different character this time around, and even though the film is more of an ensemble piece he manages to completely steal the show once again.

Francis Ng vcd cover

Two rival gangs are waiting on the outcome of a negotiation between the gang leaders. In the afternoon and evening leading up to the meeting tensions are running high, anticipating a night of violence on the streets of Hong Kong. We are introduced to Dagger (Francis Ng) a smart but cowardly triad, who understands the fallacies of the triad lifestyle and who just wants to play mahjong and avoid the whole situation. Dinosaur (Roy Cheung) is the complete opposite, he lives for the thrill of the fight, longing for the action to arrive, to give himself and his friends the chance to prove themselves in honourable battle. Cheung Tat Ming is an anti-triad cop with more than work on his mind, his relationship with his pregnant wife is faltering, and as a result he's under great pressure from his boss. Can the situation be averted or will the tension prove too much?

Francis Ng society dvd

Whereas the first movie threw the viewer into a whirlwind of absurdity, Once Upon a Time In Triad Society 2 takes a more leisurely approach, gently introducing and developing it's characters. As a result the film lacks the immediacy and energy that served the first movie so well. Instead thanks to the superbly constructed screenplay, we have three dimensional characters that we can care about, a story that ratchets up the tension as the film progresses, reaching genuinely exciting levels at just the right moments. A great cast is headed by Francis Ng, who once again delivers a brilliant, nuanced and amusing performance. Roy Cheung is great fun and it's nice to see Cheung Tat Ming in a more dramatic role than I'm used to seeing from him. Ada Choi, Ivy Leung and Angie Cheung all put in solid performances as the girls in the men's lives.

Francis Ng vhs cover

Once again Cha Chuen Yee delivers a clever, thoughtful and highly amusing film that also carries emotional weight thanks to it's well developed characters. Just as much of an anti-triad movie as the first but approaching it's subject from a different angle, the two movies make for a great double bill, or rather they would if you could get hold of them, like the first movie, this one is unavailable in Hong Kong too. The two films deserve a much better fate than languishing in the obscurity they currently do.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Unjust

Korean action poster

Coming from Ryoo Seung Wan, the director of Crying Fist and The City of Violence, you could be forgiven for expecting another high octane, action packed movie. Instead the director delivers an intelligent and taut thriller highlighting the corruption running through the Korean legal system, from the police through to the prosecutors. Impressively for a film with such a rich and complex plot, one that demands the audience's attention completely, the movie went on to become one of the biggest Korean movies of 2010.

Unjust screen capture

A child serial killer is on the loose and the efforts of the police to catch him have been ineffectual, with the media image of the police suffering as a result. In order to rectify the situation, the ambitious Detective Choi (Hwang Jung Min) is promised a promotion he has been denied in the past, if he can bring in someone for the terrible crimes. Having selected a suitable suspect (one that has already been cleared during the investigation), Choi enlists the help of gang boss Jang (Yu Hae Jin) to "convince" the man to confess to the killings. Choi's "success" in bringing the killer in brings him to the attention of the equally shady and ambitious prosecutor Joo (Ryoo Seung Bum). Joo also has gangster connections, and as their worlds twist into each other, what follows is a personal battle of wits between the two men, as they each try to bring the other down.

Unjust screen capture

One of the best elements of The Unjust is the lack of a good guy so to speak, both leads are equally self serving and willing to use anything and anybody in order to achieve their goals. It's unusual and refreshing to find a film structured in this way, as it keeps the audience off balance but also equally invested in both characters. If Hollywood deems the movie worthy of a remake, it will be interesting to see if this aspect remains the same, somehow I doubt it.

Ryoo Seung Wan's direction is superb, the dynamic visual style employed keeps things moving and prevents the film becoming bogged down in the complexities of the plot. Despite the bleakness of the film as a whole it has a rich, glossy look that contrasts nicely with the actions of the story and characters. The City of Violence, the director's 2006 film was highly underrated in my opinion and The Unjust further enhances his reputation as being one of the best directors in Korea.

Unjust screen capture

The storyline twists and turns impressively keeping the viewer constantly second guessing where it's going, aside from the solid writing this is helped immeasurably by the excellent performances by not only the leads but the supporting cast too. Hwang Jun Min is superb as the seemingly in control Detective, as his character begins to fray around the edges the tension becomes palpable. He has a remarkable similarity to Tony Leung Chiu Wai, slightly less handsome and a little rougher around the edges but it struck me throughout just how much he looks like Leung in Bullet in the Head. Ryoo Seung Bum is equally good, more intelligent than Choi but never quite in control of the situation. A mention also for Yu Hae Jin, who doesn't have that much screen time but makes the most of what he has and is very memorable.

korean action poster

The Unjust paints an uncompromising and horrible portrait of the Korean justice system, I can only imagine what the authorities must have made of it! The film is truly excellent, dark and bleak in the best sense of the words, intelligent and thoroughly exciting. Filled with great performances and bursts of brutal action, the violence is made all the more powerful by it's sporadic nature. It's always a good thing when a film like The Unjust does well at the box office, as it shows producers that audiences are not afraid of paying attention, lets hope the trend continues.
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