Thursday, December 31, 2009

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles




Zhang Yimou has become best known around the world for his martial arts epics Hero, and House of Flying Daggers. However fans of Asian cinema know that, though those films (and recently his third martial arts picture Curse of the Golden Flower) are spectacular in their own respect, its drama, and simple story telling that this master film maker does best. Riding Along for Thousands of Miles was written for the lead actor Ken Takakura, it’s the story about an aging Japanese fisher man named Gouichi Takata (Ken Takakura) who has been estranged from his son Kenichi for some time. When Takata learns that his son has taken ill, he leaves his small fishing village to visit him in Tokyo. Unfortunately he wants nothing to do with his father anymore. Takata’s daughter wants her father to know what his son is really like. So she gives him a tape to watch. It turns out his son is a film maker who also has a deep passion for Chinese folk opera, the videotape is of a performance that was recorded during one of Kenichi’s visits to China. On the tape he is interviewing a famous opera singer named Li Jiamin (played by an actor named Li Jiamin). Who tells of a great song called “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles”, a song from the famous novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," about a general who selflessly went on a long journey to help a friend. Unfortunately Li was too ill that day to perform it for him, so he says to come back to China another time and he, who is the best at performing the song, will show him. Kenichi would never return.

Soon after watching the video Takata learns that his son has terminal cancer to the liver and will not live long. So he decides that he will travel to china, and record Li Jiamin performing “Riding alone for Thousands of Miles” for his dying son. This task however will not be an easy one for him.

What makes this story so good is that it is so very similar to the song which it is named after. The song is about a great General who travels for thousands of miles to help a close friend. The film is about a father who decides to travel thousands of miles himself to do a great deed for his son. Its not only the story that makes this film so beautiful. Most of the filming was done in Lijiang and Yunnan China. Anyone who knows China will agree that there are fewer places in this world with such lavish landscapes. If you did not know, well watch this film! The acting is also a highlight. Takakura is simply stunning in his role. A man with few words, who has given himself a task and is willing to go to any lengths to complete it. Another great performance was given to the young Zhenbo Yang who played Yang Yang(Li Jiamins estranged son). He does not appear for long, or say much, but its his face that truly tells his story.

Zhang Yimou has brought us another masterpiece, Riding Along for Thousands of Miles is definitely one of his best films. If you liked The Road Home, or Takeshi Kitano’s great film Kikujiro. This is a film for you.

10/10

A Film By: Zhang Yimou

No Problem 2




When a wealthy business man dies, he leaves his fortune, as well as his company to his daughter Yumiko (Wakana Sakai). This angers his brother Kazuo who expected the fortune to be left to him. So out of anger he hires a hitman to kill her.

Meanwhile, after being fired for daydreaming about being a Hong Kong movie star Kensuke (Takashi Okamura) heads to Hong Kong. When he arrives complications due to an old and confused hotel owner causes him to get mixed up as the killer hired to take out Yumiko. Not fully aware of what happening, he goes along with it. But when he sees her he immediately falls in love and saves her life instead of killing her. But his heroics are short lived when one of Lazuo's henchmen (played fantastically by Collin Chou) kidnaps her and hypnotizes her into giving him her company.

With the aid of a Kung Fu master (Yuen Biao) and his buck-toothed sister (Candy Lo), as well as a bumbling police officer (Sam Lee) the group seeks out to find and rescue the imprisoned Yumiko.

No Problem 2 feels like a combination between Scary Movie, and Kung Fu Hustle. A lot of the movie is made up of parodies of many classic Hong Kong action and martial arts films. And its a real treat.

No Problem 2 is a very fun film to say the least, especially for the hard core fans of Hong Kong films. It is similar to the fashion of the Scary Movies series(and what they did with classic horror films). Except with Scary Movie you had a messy jumble of random film references placed together into an hour and a half of pure stupidity. No problem does not do this, they managed to take famous moments from classic films and not only spoof them, but actually fit them nicely into the context of the plot. And its humor is very reminiscent of a Stephen Chow film. The movie opens up in a church exactly like The Killer and we break into a hilarious gunfight which shows our wanna-be-hero randomly sliding across tables killing hords of baddies with only a few rounds fired. And later when our damsel in distress is kidnaped and dragged onto a bus. Our hero once again busts into action, but first her grabs an umbrella. . .you can see where I am going with this. Throughout the film we also see references to many other films, Drunken master, The Karate Kid, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, and even Who Wants to be a Millionaire!

Another treat was the appearance of Yuen Biao as the wise Kung Fu Master. He is at his comedic best for sure, and he also has a few wonderful fights as well. The rest of the cast was very well put together. Sam Lee pulls of the idiot cop role quite nicely. And Collin Chou shines as the villain in the film. But I must say that the lead actor Takashi Okamura carried the film wonderfully. The role he played is very much like Stephen Chow in Kung Fu hustle. We alo get treated to another great Eric Tsang cameo! Hurray!

8.5/10

A Film By: Chin Kar lok

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Unborn But Forgotten




“Unborn But Forgotten” is a fairly strange film that could almost be considered the love child of The Ring, and the awful American horror flop “Fear Dot Com” however to the films credit the similarities do part ways as the film progresses. A pregnant journalist (Jun-ho Jeong), and a dedicated police officer (Eun-ju Lee) team up to try and solve a case of mysterious deaths, all connected by the fact that all of the victims were pregnant women who had all visited the same website 15 days before their death (see!). And guess what! As I mentioned our female lead is indeed pregnant, and yes, she too visited www.if-you-are-a-pregnant-woman-this-site-will-kill-you.com as well (note: not actual website name). So now to avoid her own inevitable demise she and her new partner must find a way to stop this murderous web-spirit-thingy. . .

The film hits basically all horror movie clichés as though they went into the making of the film with a checklist. And until all have been checked off the story must go on. We have unsettling silence, creepy dolls, thunder and rain, and even a screaming tea kettle. The story is pretty straight forward, but does come with its share of plot holes and unanswered questions. For some reason our pregnant victims switch from being pregnant to not being pregnant depending on who is looking at them . . .why? Well that is left for you to decide. No, not magic glasses!

The film does have some great cinematography, and the acting from the late great Eun-ju Lee (as most should know the actress committed suicide in 2005) is superb. She delivers a fine and convincing heroin. Jun-ho Jung played his charismatic cop role nicely as well!

As straight forward as the story is, if you find yourself disconnecting from the film part way through you may soon after find yourself lost. Not to mention it sort of ends very abruptly. Throw in some okay horror beats, and a decent plot twist and you get a passable Korean horror film. Unfortunately with such a large selection of fantastic Korean Horror films available for your discovery, it’s a film that will most likely itself be soon forgotten. (pun intended!)

6/10

A Film By: Chang-jae Lim

Fearless




(Written upon its release in 2006)

As most know by now, Fearless has been tagged as Jet Li’s final Wushu martial arts epic. This is obviously not good news to any fan of martial arts films, and especially fans of Li himself. That said, if you ever wondered how Jet Li would end his triumphant run after so many classic martial arts films, I can tell you he goes out on top. Fearless is easily one of Li’s best films in years, maybe ever. Also it is definitely one of director Ronny Yu’s best achievements in over ten years (in the past decade we have been treated with such forgettable films as ‘Freddy vs Jason’, ‘Bride of Chucky’, and ‘Formula 51’).

The film tells the story Chinese martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia. (Jet Li) and how he took back the lost pride and glory of the Chinese from the influential western powers and the growing Japanese reign in the early 20th century. The film opens up at the climatic moment of the story, at a fighting tournament where four of the top fighters from Japan, and the west are to compete against Yuanjia himself. Right from the beginning we are treated to a wonderful sequence of fights between three of the competitors and Yuanjia. But before he is to fight his final component, Anno Tanaka (Shido Nakamura), the story sends us back to Yuanjai’s childhood.

We see a very rambunctious young Yuanjia who wants very much to be a martial arts master like his father, but is forbidden to because of his asthma. When he watches his father be publicly defeated and humiliated in a fight, young Yuanjia challenges his own fight with a local bully, where he is also defeated and feels personally obligated to become the greatest fighter in TianJin.

The story then sends us forward to 10 years before the climax of the film, where we see an older Yuanjia who has almost achieved what he set out to do. We see him easily take on and defeat many local fighters and quickly become a local icon. Unfortunately as his popularity and reputation as a great fighter grows, so does his arrogance.

Everything suddenly comes to crashing halt when he unintentionally kills a fighter who he called out to fight during his birthday celebration. At this point we can start to see Yuanjin begin to start losing his self-control. But the final blow to his stability occurs when his daughter, and mother are brutally murdered out of vengeance for the man he killed. Yuanjin, in a state of complete disarray, fleas his town and takes salvage in a small farming village. He spends many years there, and with the help of a lovely blind girl finds himself, and is ready to return to his village and make a mends with his troubled past. Unfortunately when he returns, his village has started to fall to the influence of the westerners.

Shortly after his return, he discovers there is an American who has been defeating Chinese fighters all over the country and as a result the Chinese name is being tarnished and ridiculed as the 'the sick man of Asia’

Yuanjia now finds himself with a new personal objective; he fights not for his personal glory, but for his country and his people. We see his heroics return in a new light, and this light is ever so wonderful.

Fearless is a very special film, not only is it Jet Li’s final wushu film, but it’s a return to what Jet Li does best. When he did Hero in 2002, Jet Li fans worldwide rejoiced at seeing his return to his roots after so many disappointing American films. But Fearless is even more of what we all love so much about Jet Li, its Jet Li, its Wushu, its glorious!

Now there is one problem with the film, or should I say “lack-there-of”. The current version available(NOTE: Directors Cut now available), and probably the theatrical version is a mere 100 minutes. However the film that was shot was a much longer 150 minutes. I hate to admit it, but you can tell. The pacing of the film is good, but it just feels too quick. The story being told just can’t be done in less then two hours. The film takes place mainly over 10 years (longer if you include the childhood scenes) and there are many key moments throughout the 10 years, so an hour and 40 minutes just doesn’t work Now perhaps 150 minutes is too long, but cutting almost an hour seems like butchery. There is even cut scenes featuring the lovely Michelle Yeoh. However, all that said. The film is very watchable and even if there is never a full version available, what we get is still great. The acting is terrific, great casting, and lovely cinematography. There are some minor stop-and-go moments during the fights. They work, but some may find them unnecessary.

So if this is indeed Jet Li’s final Wushu martial arts film. I can honestly say it is a hell of a way to go. It’s hard to tell if this film will have the same impact Hero did to a worldwide audience, but for fans on the genre, and of Jet Li. I cannot see this disappointing.

8.9/10

A Film By: Ronny Yu

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

G.I Joe




G.I Joe is by no means a good film, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What I really appreciate about it is that it does not take itself seriously at all. It is exactly what it set out to be. A live action, big budget, Saturday morning cartoon. One that requires the viewer to suspend all disbelief, lighten up, and just enjoy the show. Transformers 2 did quite the opposite, it forces us to try and invest too much emotion into something that should just be a fun time at the movies . . . or at home with a nice TV and a Blu-ray player. That in essence is what really makes a bad movie isn’t it? Something that tries to be one thing, fails, and ends up being something completely different. Be it a comedy that is not funny, or a drama that ends up being laughably bad. G.I Joe is none of these; it succeeds at what it is trying to be.

The highlight and lowlight is the cast. Lee Byung-hun (a personal favourite actor of mine) and Ray Park easily steal the show. Their sub-plot could have been its own film. Dennis Quaid may not have turned in his best performance of his career, but he sure looked like he was having a good time! On the other hand Channing Tatum is just . . . not a good actor at all, and having Marlon Wayans at his side most of the time did not help. Joseph Gordon-levitt pulled of the kind of performance that could only suit a film like this. He was the perfect cartoon villain. Very Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face.

This is not Christopher Nolans G.I Joe, this is Stephen Sommers after all, the guy who brought us The Mummy, Van Helsing, and a Huck Finn! So if you can try and enjoy it for what it is you may get more out of it then you think. Remember it could have been worse; it could have been Micheal Bay's G.I Joe. . .

6.5/10

A Film by: Stephen Sommers

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Red Shoes



A young mother who has recently discovered her husband has been cheating on her, decides to leave him and start a new life alone with her daughter. Shortly after she finds a unique pair of red shoes in a subway that she feels a strange attraction to. However once the mysterious shoes enter her life, they start a chain of horrific events that she finds herself unable to get away from.


A nicely stylized horror film that will probably be for fans of the genre only. Like some other Korean ghost stories, The Red Shoes definitely offers more style than substance. The atmosphere and look of the film is stunning, but the story can be somewhat difficult to grasp in one viewing(yes, a second is recommended). That said, the story is actually quite good. Its not so much a tale of haunted red shoes, as much of a story about a mother, struggling to raise her young daughter who appears to resent her, all while of course dealing with a pair of evil shoes.

It may be silly to think of a horror film about evil shoes, in fact it does sound silly. But then again we have had haunted video cassettes, cell-phones, cellos, cameras, wigs, eye balls, and so on. So a pair of shoes actually fits into the mix quite well

7/10

A Film by: Kim Yong-gyun

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Host




Six years after several containers of toxic chemicals are secretly dumped into the Han River by an American scientist and his Korean partner, a giant carnivorous sea mutant rises out of the water, and starts feeding on the helpless population of Seoul. A careless father Kang(Bong Joon-ho) accidently loses his daughter to the giant sea beast, and is later quarantined after its revealed that the monster may have been carrying a deadly contagious virus. Thinking his daughter is dead, Kang receives a frantic cell phone call for help from his still alive daughter. When nobody believes him that she is still alive out there, he breaks out of the quarantine. Together with his father, alcoholic brother, and Olympic gold medalist sister, they set out to find and save their little girl before she becomes the monsters late night snack.

As of the past few years, Korean cinema has exploded with worldwide success, we have been treated with many phenomenal films from many wonderful directors. Bong Joon-ho has delivered us with yet another. However, something about this gem stands out from the rest. It could be the tight story which primarily focus’ on one small family working together to retrieve their lost little girl, or maybe it’s the total absence of gang warfare, or stylized shootouts that seem so common among Korean films. But something tells me it’s the giant carnivorous sea monster!

The Host is a groundbreaking film for Korea. In fact it happens to be the most successful to date, and it’s a monster movie! Simply said, The Host is awesome! This is coming from someone who is not exactly a huge fan of monster movies. There is just something very unique about this film. Even though it is in fact a monster movie, it lacks all the common cliches that come along with them. It’s actually is telling a half decent story. A story which really does not take much time to take off. The film doesn’t even clock in a full 15 minutes before we first get introduced to the monster itself, and what an introduction! The way we are introduced to the beats is so well done, so casual. As Kang is delivering some food to a blanket(The restaurant has picnic style blankets instead of tables) he notices everyone starring out at something hanging from a bridge. So he slowly walks over and joins them. Suddenly the giant object descends into the water, where people begin throwing items in to watch it snatch them like a fish. But the fun and games quickly end when it decides to join everyone on the shore.

The monster itself is pretty well done. Bong Joon-ho put a lot of work, and worldwide searching into finding the right company to do create the CGI beast. He ended up using a company based out of San Francisco California called ‘Ultimate’. Their resume includes CGI work on such American films as Hellboy, one of the Harry Potter films, and Superman Returns. They did a great job. The monster looks fantastic, most of the time. There is a few moments in the film when he(she? It?)doesn’t quite looks as seamless as previous scenes. Its not clear what exactly the monster is a mutation of. It looks like a fish, but walks like a T-Rex(it is obvious it has no T-Rex in it). But it also has a long tail that is uses to swing from high places, or grab some unlucky snacks. However what it is not as important as what it does, and what it does is very cool!

With a strong cast, and a decent story, The Host has much more to offer then most monster movies. In the monster itself is the only indication that this is in fact such a film. There is no campy overacting, or half naked collage girls running through the woods, and most importantly there is no American teenage pop “sensation” making their unfortunate “acting” debut! What we get is another steller film out of South Korea, except this one has a giant freakin monster!!

9.5/10

A Film By: Bong Joon-ho

Real Time (Para-Review)




One of the best independent films I have watched in quite some time! Though small(cast of 5, and one additional voice), it packs more heart then all the hollywood blockbusters combined. Jay Baruchel proves he has some serious acting chops, and is becomming one of my favorite young actors. And Randy Quaid is always a joy to watch, but this has to be one of his more memerable characters! He also sports a perfect Aussie accent. The final 10 minutes of the film are absolutely brilliant and the ending could not have been more perfect. An unforgettable little gem!

8.5/10

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Ghost




Something happened to Ji-won. She doesn’t know what, but it has left her memory a blank pallet. She hasn’t a clue who she was, who her friends were, or anything about her life before her incident. When she discovers that girls who were once her friends start mysteriously dying off one by one, she starts to investigate, and as she begins revealing the pieces of her past life, strange and horrific visions begin to haunt her.

The Ghost is another in a line of Korean Ghost stories, using a similar formula we have seen before. This includes a long haired ghost of a girl seeking vengeance for whatever caused her death. If you have seen enough Asian ghost stories then you will know what you are in for when you watch this film (also known as ‘Dear Friend’). So do not expect to be scared witless or even scared at all. This is not a scary film. Its scare tactics have been used so much before, that you will know ahead of time when to be scared just by the scenes set up. At one point a young girl decides in the middle of the night to get a glass of water from the kitchen. Where does she get the water from, the facet. . .I think you can figure out what happends next.

You will see a lot of familiar formulas used throughout the film, mainly elements from three quite popular and well known films. Ju-on, Dark Water, and A Tale of Two Sisters all appear to have had a hand in the inspiration of The Ghost. Our vengeful ghost liked to use water to kill her victims.

So despite all the familiarity of its story, The Ghost it is still a decent film. Caution must be made that it does take a fan of the Asian ghost genre to enjoy the film. Some may and will be put off by what many believe to be an overused formula. It’s not the vengeful ghost that makes this such an enjoyable and worthwhile watch. It’s rather the story of our poor amnesia struck leading character Ji-won. Little is revealed to the viewer that she does not first discover on her own. So we get to learn along side of her. The story is one of self discovery; unfortunately for her what she discovers is not going to come easy. This is in fact where the truly horrific elements of the film begin. As the film reaches its climax, and we discover why Ji-won is being haunted by this ghost, and why her friends are being rubbed out one by one, but Ji-won is not. Then it really does send a chill down your spine. However it must also be added that it is a realization that is far more sad then scary.

But just when you think all is well, the wrench is truly thrown into the gears and the entire film is turned upside down to review what has truly been going on for the last 90 or so minutes. This finale might leave you a bit confused. But really, what fun is a plot twist if you don’t need to think it through afterwards?

7.5/10

A Film by: Kim Tae-Kyeong

Real Fiction




A street painter who has lead a rather unhappy life, and is starting to lose grip on reality incurs a vision of an alternate self who through a rather dramatic stage performance tells him that he should find all the people who have ever done him wrong, and kill them. So without taking much thought into it he begins his violent vengeful rampage.

It is not the film itself that will leave you talking about Real Fiction for days after watching it. Its how the film was actually made, and by knowing this it gives you an entirely new appreciation for Kim Ki-duk, and the art of simple film making. After weeks of preparation and rehearsing, Real Fiction was shot in one day, over the course of about 3 and a half hours.

Every scene was filmed in real time, in one take, with multiple cameras set up. As well as one freehand camera being carried around by a mysterious young girl, who by the way is made quite apparent yet is never really explained. Using this style you are presented with a film that leaves you basically watching a stage play on screen. Though this is a very unique way of approaching a film, it does come with the risk of things not going perfectly well, which you will see in a few brief moments (though it is assumed any major hiccups were edited out).

However the film overall was done pretty flawlessly. The cast, especially our leading man Ju Jin-mo is superb in this quite demanding and probably nerve racking role. You will probably find yourself feeling sorry for the victims. Though these people did do him wrong, they are not bad people, so unlike most revenge films it’s hard to decide weather you should be caring for the main character, or weather you should despise him. That said your decision will probably be made easy by the end of the film.

Real Fiction is such a simple straight forward film, it just follows our killer about the city as he makes rid of his victims. So it is quite easy to say that it is how the film is made that makes it what it is, which is a brilliant early effort from a director who has since established himself as one of the most universally renowned Korean Directors in the world. In fact had this been made in a tradition style it would have lacked all its charm and been nothing but a boring A to Z killing spree.

8/10

A Film by KIm Ki-duk

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen (Para-Review)




I hate Michael Bay, but I liked the first Transformers, alot. It almost felt like his creative input was restrained for the first film and though he still managed to get some of his ideas through, he was kept at. ..um bay. But for this, they must have removed the restraints and given him a throne and a magic staff that shot out lightning bursts of lame humor, dizzying arial shots, annoying parents who need to be punched, robots that perpetuate stereotypes, and $100 000 000 just for helicopter fuel.

In the end it was not the worst sequel ever made *cough* Matrix *Cough* and I found it watchable for the most, but if put in the hands of different script writers, producers, DIRECTOR, and most of the cast, it could have been much better. . .(catch my drift?)

. .oh and Tyrese's reign of terror MUST stop now!

6/10

A "Film" by: Michael bay

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2009 Lost Memories




Imagine that during World War II, Japan had allied with the US, and the bombs were not dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but on Berlin. In 2009 Lost Memories, that is the reality.

In 1909, a failed assassination attempt on a Japanese foreign minister Ito Hirobumi(which in real life was successfully done by legendary Korean patriot Ahn Chung-gun)has changed the course of history as we know it. Now Korea is just another part of the great Japanese empire.

After a successful foiling of a terrorist attack on a Museum displaying ancient cultural artefacts. J.B.I agent Sakamoto (Jang Dong Gun) begins to uncover information about a familiar looking relic known as the “Lunar Soul”. An item that the underground band of Korean born freedom fighters (the same behind the unsuccessful attack on the museum), are willing to sacrifice everything to obtain. As he starts to unravel the mystery behind the “Lunar Soul”, everything he thought he knew about the world he lives in suddenly gets turned upside down.

Time travel could be a very dangerous thing. Many people believe that everything, good or bad, happens for a reason. So the idea of time travel is scary because its very true that the slightest change, could have an enormous affect on the future. So imagine what would happen if the change that occurs is far greater then a slight one.

2009 is one of those films that kinda starts out slow, but once the story really kicks off, you are hooked. And there is quite a story to tell. The plot is a think one indeed, and there is plenty of time to tell it. The film clocks in at a 136 minutes. Luckily the thick plot is not hard to follow. In fact the story is so well told, that despite its many layers and twists, its easy to keep on track and understand what’s going on. The idea behind the film is brilliant. It truly makes you think, what if? What is someone went back in time and stopped JFK from being shot? What is someone went back in time and killed Hitler when he was a child?

The show stealer for sure is Dong-Gun Jang who plays the lead character Sakamoto, a Korean born agent of the J.B.I., who has forgotten his past. In fact his partner Saigo (Nakamura) basically thinks of Sakamoto as Japanese. At one point of the film he even says "Its strange to think of you as Korean". Dong-Gun is absolutely steller in his role, he plays his character with absolute conviction and by the end you actually care for Sakamoto. Who makes a very drastic change in character by the end of the film.

On the outside 2009 looks like it’s going to be an insane, sci-fi adventure, but despite some incredible action scenes, it’s a much laid back investigative thriller. A lot of plot unveiling. And even some great twists and "Oh my god" moments.
It goes without saying that if you have not seen 2009: Lost Memories. You really should. Its very much would you time (all 136 minutes of it) and even if by the end if you felt it went on too long. You will not be disappointed by what you have just seen.

8/10

A Film by: Si-myung Lee

The Chaser




There is no denying that when you first hear a brief plot summery for The Chaser you will most likely scratch your head. A detective turned pimp, starts losing his girls to a serial killer and uses his professional skills and connections to start a personal manhunt for the suspect. However the hunt will be heavily skewed by wave after wave of frustrating red tape in what appears to be a slight at a broken justice system.

So there you have it, a detective turned pimp hunting a serial killer, despite the unusual plot The Chaser is easily one of the best films I have seen in a long time. I hate to use clichés, but it’s gripping, suspenseful, edge of your seat (ack., hate that saying) thrill ride (terrible I am very sorry), its everything so many crime thrillers with similar tag lines have tried to be in the past, and failed to deliver. As the quality of Hollywood, and (I hate to say but) Hong Kong cinema seems to be dropping, or at best flat lining. Korean Cinema continues to thrive and deliver such brilliant films as this one!

Believe it or not The Chaser is a debut film by a director named Hong-jin Na, who is currently working on his second film, both of which he also wrote. Yun-seok Kim won a Korean Film best actor award for his performance as Joong-Eom the pimp in question, and deservedly so. His performance was top notch, and the same can be said for Jung-woo Ha who brilliantly plays the killer to pitch perfection. He is truly one of the more memorable on screen villains in a long time.

There is a perfect blend of action, suspense, graphic violence (that Korean film fans must be used to by now) humour, and heart shattering drama. Though there is a bit of a slowdown midway through that takes a bit of steam out of the films pacing. Don’t fret because the final 20 minutes of The Chasers outstanding finale will more than make up for it! If you have a habit of biting your nails, or pulling your hair when nervous, you may want to wear gloves and a hat. Because when I pulled out the “edge of your seat” card earlier, I was pretty much talking about the unforgettable climax that will most likely have you gasping aloud. I know I did!

9.5/10

A Directorial Debut by: Hong-jin Na

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Bloody Aria




An uptight music professor Young-sun (Lee) and his beautiful young student In-jeong (Cha) are on their way back to Seoul from an audition. After a rough run-in with a local highway patrol officer (Han), Young-sun decides to pull his brand new Mercedes off the road for a ‘break’ from the road. Soon his womanizing instincts take over and he attempts to have his way with her, only to have his cell phone smashed over his head and his young student run off. So he sits and waits in his car (I guess for her to return?) He soon discovers that he is actually parked in the ‘turf’ of some rather off the wall country folk who do not appear to be of friendly, or intelligent nature, and who also happens to have a young high school student tied up in a sack on the back of their bike. He tries to hide behind his heavily tinted car windows. But he is eventually found out and after a swift baseball bat to the head is now held captive (and I use that term lightly). Meanwhile through some strange twist in fate In-jeong trying to catch a ride back to Seoul catches a ride with the leader of the country gang and end up back at her professor’s car! This is where the film starts to get interesting, but not before the group all sits down for some barbeque!



A Bloody Aria is a funny little film that beneath its surface, deals with some pretty tough subjects, including bullying and of course not to far into the picture rape. It’s a simple tale of upper class city folk having a run in with some off beat country bumpkins! What makes this film so interesting and entertaining is its unique cast of characters. At times you will think you should hate, or care for a certain character but then suddenly start questioning your opinions. We are given three almost henchmen like characters, two of them young biker kids, as well as the fantastic Oh Dal-su playing a mentally unstable redneck like character who we are introduced to as he chases down a bird with his trusty baseball bat. The leader of the pack played by Lee moon-sik is a small shot tempered man who will later provide a very important peace of the films plot later on. But perhaps the show stealer in the film is the cop, played brilliantly by Han Seok-kyu. He does not have as much on screen time as the rest of the cast, but what time he has is truly memorable.

Some may have to take the films simple yet twisted story with a grain of salt; it’s not your straight cut A to B comedic romp. It comes with its fair share of twists and turns, as well as some truly uncomfortable and awkward moments that help in force that ‘how the hell am I supposed to feel for this character?’ feeling.

8.5/10

A Film by: Shin-yeon Won

Blood The Last Vampire




Throughout the opening moments of Blood it appears as though it is going to be an exact live action copy of the original (and much shorter) anime. However this soon diminishes and we are left with something that could be easier summed up as an over the top swordplay gore fest. . .which isn't a bad thing!

For a film of its kind on a budget it pulls out pretty well, the CGI throughout leaves a lot to be desired, but it made up for by Yuen Kwai's stellar action choreography. Which makes me wish the film stayed low key and left out the elaborate gore, and high flying chases. But then again it’s a vampire flick, and what better way to eliminate "Blood suckers" then removing limbs, and separating the left side of the body from the right? That said if you like gore, you will not be disappointed, but be warned the Blood Suckers do not bleed the blood you know and love, instead they seem to live off what looks like strawberry yogurt, with extra strawberries!

Our main heroin is played very well by Korean actress Gianna Jun, aka, Jun ji-Hyun, aka, The Girl! Yes, that Sassy Girl herself is all growd up and can very much do the action thing! Her performance steals the show, as it rightly should. Unfortunately her performance highlights the less talented supporting cast who’s performances can range from decent, to just plain awful. However the entire cast, despite the range of acting talent, is very well casted and look the parts perfect!

Blood the Last Vampire may not appeal to everyone, and is a sure fire hit or miss among fans of the anime. But I really did enjoy it for what it is. It’s a fun, stylized, over the top, swordplay-gore fest with some top notch limp hacking fight choreography. It may not be Nosferatu, but at least there is no Jessica Biel or Ryan Reynolds to be found!

7.5/10

A Film by Chris Nahon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wheels on Meals The Game!











Most of you have probably heard of the NES game ‘Kung Fu’, but did you know that Kung Fu was originally released in Japanese arcades under the title Spartan X? Why was it called Spartan X you ask? Spartan X was the Japanese title of a Hong Kong film better known around the world as Wheels on Meals. Directed by and starring Sammo Hung, along with Yuen Biao, and Jackie Chan. So what some of you may not have known is that Kung Fu aka Spartan X, is actually Wheels on Meals the game! Pretty cool no? Being that Wheels on Meals is one of my personal, all-time favourite films I was blown away when I learned this fact a few years ago. I have never been able to find a physical copy of the game since, but it’s not hard to find on any NES emulator.

Here is a little background on Wheels on Meals, and why they would make it into a game in Japan. Released in 1984, Wheels on Meals is a great example of 1980’s Hong Kong action cinema at its absolute very best! The film stars three of the ‘founding fathers’ of Hong Kong action Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Jackie Chan. Chan and Biao play two cousins living in Barcelona and running a fast food van. They soon find themselves tangled up with a beautiful Spanish pickpocket named Sylvia who is being pursued by a criminal gang to seize her sizable inheritance. In true action film fare she gets herself kidnapped. So our two hero’s, along with a bumbling detective wannabe played by the film’s director Sammo Hung team up to get Sylvia back! Not the most thought provoking plot, but it is carried out with some of the best martial arts action to date, and a landmark final showdown between our heroes and two of the best western martial artists to be displayed on screen Keith Vitali and Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez. Sammo Hung also uses Barcelona Spain to its full potential using many of the city's highlight architectural locations as a backdrop.

At this time Hong Kong action, and especially Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao were enormously famous in Japan. (factoid: Jackie Chan was contractually obligated at the time to include outtakes in every Japanese print of his films. So though many of his films released in other parts of the world that do not contain out takes, if you track down a Japanese copy they will!) So it comes by as no

surprise that they would have made an arcade game based on the hit film. Of course at the time nobody in America knew who Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung or Yuen Biao where, nor would they have cared. So it was generically titled Kung Fu and ported to the NES. So when Jackie Chan took the America by storm in the early 1990’s little did people know that they had been playing

him in an NES game all along. Then again there would eventually be an NES game called Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu released in 1991, 3 years before the release of Rumble in the Bronx and Chan’s North America success. But who remembers that?

-Jeff Wildman




Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Taken (Para-Review)




Taken as a film can be described just like its lead character. Its on a mission, it knows what it needs to do, and it completes said task without taking any unnecessary side-steps, no needless sub-plots and mosst importantly, it does it all sleek style! It is going to be hard for any action film to top such a brilliant ride in 2009.

Liam Needon is now a bonified BAD-ASS, and he didn't need a sword to do so!

10.0

A Film by Pierre Morel

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Myth


Archaeologist Jack Lee (Chan) keeps having reoccurring dreams of a past life, where he is the great General Meng whom is sworn to protect a Korean Princess named OK-soo (Kim). When his old friend William(Leung) returns to his life telling scientific tales of a levitating Holy man in India. They decide to go investigating Indiana Jones style. However, when Lee stumbles on (more like almost gets crusted by) a tomb revealing a painting of the Princess from his dream, he begins unravelling the true connection between his past life and his current.

Stanley Tongs The Myth is two different stories intertwined together into one. One plays very much like a Jackie Chan film, filled with a healthy dose of Chan approved action and humour. The other is something that we have never seen from Jackie, a sweeping epic filled with horses and swords, princess’ and soldiers, and even some decapitation! Basically it’s like putting Armour of God and Musa the Warrior on two separate pieces of bread, and making a sandwich! But does the sandwich taste good? as a matter of fact, it kind of does.

The Myth does come with its flaws however, and not in small doses either. Perhaps the film’s most common is the often horrible CGI! (And to think, it was nominated for best Visual Effects at the HKFA) Its not always bad, but when it sticks, it reeks! Luckily the film is not too depended on the CGI so it is not to completely put one off the film. Another disappointment is the wasted use of Mallika Sherawat. If you love Bollywood, and were excited to see her in this film, don’t get too excited. Billing her as a lead is almost as bad as calling Steven Segal the star of Executive Decision (if you have seen that film you are probably nodding in agreement). Her purpose in the film is basically to walk around with Jack while he is in India. That’s it. . . Oh and to dance, and get 90% naked (out of frame, sorry!).

The rest of the leading cast however were used quite well. Tony Leung Ka Fai may not have had an overly demanding role, but he pulled it off. Kim Hee-seon is wonderful and quite believable in her role. Its Jackie Chan however, who definitely earns his star status in this film. Chan is such an underrated actor. This is indeed quite unfortunate, because the man can act! His performance as the honourable General Meng is wonderful, and may be one of his best acting performance to date. The only problem with it is that if you have not seen such films as Crime Story, New Police Story, or Heart of Dragon, and are used to his mainstream films like First Strike, Rush Hour, Tuxedo, or Rumble in the Bronx. You may not be able to take him as a serious actor, especially in this role.

What is also great about The Myth is the visuals. It’s a very pretty film, mostly filmed in India, but even the shots of Hong Kong from atop Jacks home is beautiful! As pretty as the film is, what really stands out (to me anyway) is the wonderful music. The theme titled “Endless Love” is played in various arrangements throughout the majority of the flash backs with General Meng and Oh-soo.(it is also performed by Jackie Chan and Kim Hee-seon) The song was nominated at the 2006 Hong Kong Film Awards for best Original Song. It’s a great song that fits the tone of the film so well.

If you like action in your Chan films, The Myth has some of that too. As stated above the scenes in modern day have the comedic, and crafty Jackie Chan fights you know and love, one in particular happens to be one of his best in recent films, which is in a glue factory. The period sequences play more like your typical epic film ala’ Musa, Hero, The Promise. Mostly swordplay, horses etc. Not as fun to watch, but still pretty damn good

If you like period epics, or modern action films, or if you like both! Then you will enjoy The Myth to some degree, because it’s basically both of those! It’s also a pretty daring film for Jackie Chan. It is not often you see him on a horse during the Qin Dynasty leading and army of soldiers to protect a princess, in fact you haven’t. Until now! Some may not accept that. But I respect him for trying something different. For those who will not be able to handle that kind of Jackie, the other half of the film will probably save it. Will we ever see him in another Period epic, this time entirely a period film? Who knows, but one thing is for sure. He could easily pull it off.

7.5

A Film by Stanley Tong

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Fortune Code



Set during the Japanese occupation of China, Andy Lau plays Wah, a prisoner who escapes a POW camp only to be unintentionally recruited by his spy fiancee (Anita Mui) and her accomplice Hung (Sammo Hung) to join them, and another spy Robin (Alam Tam) to break back into the prison to find the “God of Fortune” who posses a code to get into a Swiss bank account and claim a $500 Billion fortune intended for the Chinese Military.

Unfortunately it would not be easy, as the head of the prison also happens to be looking for the same code. If he finds the code first, Japan will have the funds to completely take over China. So its up to the four spies, along with a group of hapless Chinese prisoners to find the fortune first and save their country.

Fortune Code is a fun film, filled with an almost entirely recognizable cast of great actors and actress’. but its not much more then that unfortunately. It’s a fairly simple story, 4 spies breaking into a prison (well, only 3 of the 4 actually break in at first) to find a prisoner they believe to hold the key to a fortune great enough to save China from Japans grasps. That’s about it. In the meantime our main hero Wah (Lau) just wants to get everything over with so he can marry his fiancee (Mui). There is plenty of decent action, but including some impressive fights involving Sammo of course, but Andy Lau as well. Its nice to see Lau doing action like he used to. The film has far more humor though, that is where Fui-On Shing, Eric Tsang, and Billy Lau come in! But the film overall felt a bit flat at the end.

As I stated above the films strongest point is its cast. Where to begin? First off our 4 main Hero (code named Spy 1, Spy 2, Spy 3, and you guessed it Spy 4) are played by Andy Lau, Sammo Hung, Anita Mui, and Alam Tam. Inside the prison we have a mentally ill man named Chocolate played by the films director Kent Cheng. A very feminine prisoner played by Shing Fui-On's. A group of tough, overly-patriotic pilots which happen to include the out-of-place Eric Tsang. Billy Lau playing the weak hearted “Donald Duck”, Charlie Cho is in there as a henchmen to the prison leader. Chung Fat, Ridly Tsui, Ken Lo, and Gordon Liu all appear in the film as well. I could go on! Ben Lam, Wilson Lam, Parkman Wong, and Siu Mok. What you want more? Well. . .watch the film!

The Fortune Code is a fun film yes, and its worth watching just to see everyone in the film, its kinda like Millionairs Express, or Twin Dragons, while watching the film its fun to just wait in anticipation to see who will pop up next. Gordon Liu shows up near the end of the film, and that led to a “Hey!” moment! The film also has a strong “The Great Escape” feel to it, which begs the question “Was The Fortune Code inspired by The Great Escape?” I think so! In fact I was waiting for someone to try to escape on a motorcycle. I regret to inform you that moment would never come.

It is worth a watch for the cast alone, but that is about it.

6.0


A Film by Kent Cheng