Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Running Out Of Time Review 1999 Hong Kong 暗戰


Stunning action thriller from hit Hong Kong director Johnnie To with the star team up on Andy Lau and Sean Lau(Lau Ching-wan).

Andy Lau plays Cheung, a master criminal who learns that he is suffering from a terminal illness and only has 72 hours to live. Determined to use this time to revenge himself on the police and his gang rivals, the criminal genius initiates a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the authorities. Only tough police negotiator Inspector Ho (Lau Ching-wan) can see through his plans, but during a confrontation between the two men, Cheung reveals his deadly trick...

The strong point of Running Out Of Time is how clever and intricate the script is. The story unravels at a steady pace without giving too much away, this keeps you intrigued as you start to discover what Cheung's plan actually is. Along with some twists and turns this film keeps you on your toes.



If you are familiar with To's body of work you will know what to expect. A sleek stylish intelligent film, with some great action scenes in between. Not necessarily what many would call an all out action film, but enough to keep the masses happy.

The cast all deliver great performances. Andy Lau shines in his role that seems like it was made for him, he went on to win best actor at the Hong Kong Film awards for this role. Lau Ching-wan is great as the co-star, delivering an intelligent but humorous role without getting too hammy. Elsewhere, Waisee Lee plays a decent role as a bald villain. And Shiu Hung Hui delivers the comic relief as Chief Inspector Wong, this part could have easily went over the top to slapstick territory but he managed to keep it grounded while still hilarious. A real highlight is a side-splitting gag between Shiu Hung Hui and Lau Ching-wan regarding a mix up with cancer pain medication.

Oddly, one of the weakest elements of the film are some of the action scenes. This will come as a surprise to most To fans. There is a shoot out half way through the film which falls flat, it is a little dull to watch and comes across rather silly, it doesn't live up to the exciting stylish shoot outs we are used to with Johnnie To films.

Small problems aside, Running Out of Time is a very fun Hong Kong film which will satisfy To fans but will also be a great introduction point to his filmography for new comers.

7.5/10

See this if you liked:
Exiled
Infernal Affairs
PTU

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Reincarnation Review 2005 輪廻 Japan

Happy Halloween!
Since it's approaching Halloween I thought I'd sit down to an Asian horror classic.


This entry to the J-Horror collection is directed by Takashi Shimizu(Ju-On: The Grudge/Marebito). While not quite reaching the heights of Ringu and Ju-On, Reincarnation still holds it's own as a fine supernatural thriller.

When a young actress gets a role in a film based on a series of grisly murders in the 1970s, she begins to experience the killings as if they are happening in front of her. When she discovers an 8mm camera that appears to contain footage of the murders, she decides to develop the film, with terrifying consequences.

Japanese subways are always so crowded

Shimizu is great at creating an eerie atmosphere and tension. This is the real strong point of Reincarnation. Although the film might start off a little slow, it gets more and more tense as the film progresses. By the start of the third act, you'll be on the edge of your seat as the story unravels and plot elements running parallel with each other join up to give a thought provoking and compelling conclusion.

Yuka delivers a stunning performance as Nagisa Sugiura, an actress cast in the lead role of the horror film within the horror film. The film seems to be partly influenced from The Shining with the setting of the hotel, some similar plot points and also her acting style adds to this.

Traditional Japanese head massage

J-Horror isn't for everyone. It is much slower paced than American counterparts. And it doesn't have the constant jump scares, although, Reincarnation is quite creepy and does have a jump scare or two. But it's the story that matters, Reincarnation will have you guessing and questioning throughout the entire film until everything clicks in to place wonderfully at the climatic ending.

If you are looking for a Horror film to watch this Halloween, you could do worse.

7/10

See this if you liked:
The Ring
The Grudge
Dark Water


Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Rules of The Game Review 1999 Hong Kong 新家法


Generic Triad movie but it's brilliant cast and dark themes make it entertaining.

Charismatic Louis Koo is David Chow, a small-time businessman whose successful rise in the triad underworld comes in a deliberate means to an end. He's forced to join the triad of Boss Sing (Alex Fong) in order to bail out his buddy (Edmund So). Ann (Kristy Yang), the girl David loves works at a bar and catches the eye of Boss Sing who attempts to win her heart honestly. A clash between David and Sing seems inevitable.

Rules Of The Game is standard Triad affair. You are getting what it says on the tin. Expect lots of bad-ass knifes getting swung around as nameless gang members are getting chopped and stabbed. The story isn't very original and themes and ideas have been borrowed from other HK gangster flicks. But all this isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you like Triad films then you will like this. It really doesn't glamorise Triad lifestyle at all.


The cast all do a great job. Louis Koo is brilliant as David, full of charisma and comes across as a real bad ass. Alex Fong plays the role of Sing with so much conviction he is almost likeable, even though he commits some horrendous crimes. Kristy Yang lights up her role with charm and innocence. The only real let down is Sam Lee, a brilliant actor that has a role where he doesn't get to shine like his usual self.

Some of the music is fantastic in the montages and the others are downright cheesy. A few of the musical queues are extremely questionable and you have to wonder if this melodrama was supposed to gauge more of an emotional reaction in these scenes.

It all comes down to a conclusion which is half exciting and half a let down. Definitely shocking, but a more satisfying ending is expected after everything that unfolds.

Not the best Triad film, but certainly not the worst. See it for the performances, the wacky story, the violence and have a few beers and enjoy.

6.5/10

See this film if you liked:
Young and Dangerous
Colours of The Loyalty
Jiang Hu (Triad Underworld)

Trailer:


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Call of Heroes is coming to select UK Cinemas Sep 2nd!


Benny Chan's latest Hong Kong action film Call of Heroes is getting a select UK cinema release on September 2nd. For a full list of cinemas check out the official website here

Set in 1914 following the collapse of the Qing dynasty, the film tells the story of a group of villagers standing up to a cruel young warlord.

This looks like it will be a very fun film! My tickets are already booked for opening night.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

Police Story Lockdown 2013 Review China 警察故事2013

Police Story: Lockdown (aka Police Story 2013)

Although this entrant is probably the weakest of the Police Story series, it is still a decent dramatic thriller with JC getting to execute his acting chops.

Police Captain Zhong Wen (Chan) knows all about sacrifice. He's always been too busy chasing bad guys to be a father to his daughter, Miao. Tonight however, he's seeing her for the first time in years, and meeting her fiance, club owner, Wu Jiang (Liu Ye, Curse of the Golden Flower). But, Wu has a dark side, and a secret score to settle with his soon-to-be father in law, and plans to take Zhong, Miao and the whole club hostage. Only Zhong can avert the carnage, but is he willing to risk everything to stop this night going down in history?

First you need to realise that Jackie was nearly 60 when this was made. Don't go in expecting his fast paced Kung Fu and incredible stunts. Instead you will get a more dramatic story with some small more grounded action scenes.



Jackie has adopted a MMA style in the sparse fight scenes we get in Lockdown. The main fight being a one on one inside a cage which is hard hitting and brutal. This is actually a very well done fight and the newly adopted style takes any humour out of the fight along with adding believability. The bulk of the action is over by that point, and we don't get the usual big action finale like in old school Jackie films. The end fight is more of a tussle, although it is still executed rather excitingly.

The story is very compelling with twists and turns along the way which all lead up to the big reveal. Although the reveal is exciting, there is too much exposition. There are a lot of flashbacks to explain what happened which can be a little tiresome. In fact this is prominent throughout most of the film. This ends up being convoluted with the villains main plan being questionable.




Police Story Lockdown looks brilliant and has a great style. Director Ding Sheng(Little Big Soldier) has an eye for detail and delivers stylish productions. This puts it ahead of a lot of mainland China and Hong Kong films just in terms of look and visuals. However, the editing in Lockdown is pretty wild, so many quick cuts can be jarring. The fight scenes could have been filmed in this way as Jackie has aged and can’t go as well as he used to. But it's edited like this throughout, even in slow dialogue scenes. It does seem to become less noticeable and persistent as the film progresses.

The main thing to take away from Lockdown is that Jackie is a superb actor. He really delivers those dramatic scenes so well. His face is always full of emotion to the point were if Jackie is sad, then you are sad. Many people have complained there isn't enough action in this film. But Jackie has gave us so much of his health and body over the years that now he can really do whatever the hell he wants. He is getting older and slowing down, but he is an action star who is aging gracefully.

Worth a watch
7/10


Monday, 22 August 2016

Love In A Puff Review 2010 Hong Kong 志明與春嬌


A Hong Kong comedy set during the government introduction of the indoor smoking ban. The plot revolves around the love story of cosmetics sales girl Cherie(Miriam Yeung) and marketing executive Jimmy(Shawn Yue) who meet at an outdoor smoking area and begin to fall for each other.

Director Pang Ho-cheung is well known for his comedies, and Love In A Puff is one of his funniest. A little more tame and subtle than his other hits like Vulgaria and Men Suddenly In Black, but not any less entertaining. It's a great modern slice of Hong Kong which captures perfectly how the natives really talk to each other and go about their daily lives.

The film doesn't rely on a complex plot, it is more about interactions and situations. Very heavy in dialogue, in which most scenes feature workers standing around smoking and chatting. This is made exciting by witty writing which keeps you entertained as the characters tell each other disgusting, embarrassing or scary stories.


Many of the funniest parts of the films are situations the characters accidentally get themselves in to. Such as Jimmy's friend trying to smoke creatively through a takeaway cup. Or the side-splitting moment were the 2 leads get caught smoking by the police in a banned area and try to get off with it by pretending to be Japanese and Korean tourists.

The heart of the story comes down to the love interest between Shawn and Miriam's character. Although it isn't the deepest or most loving relationship we have seen on screen, there is something charming and somewhat cute about how they fall for each other. Both are fantastic actors, and carry the film well. There is an age difference between the two stars which is addressed as part of the story.

An extremely enjoyable modern and real Hong Kong comedy

7.5/10


Thursday, 28 July 2016

Matt Damon and Andy Lau team up to fight monsters in 'The Great Wall'


The trailer for The Great Wall has dropped... And it looks insane!

Directed by legendary director Zhang Yimou(House of Flying Daggers/Hero), starring Matt Damon & Andy Lau and featuring an all star international cast of Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, Eddie Peng and Jing Tian.


When a mercenary warrior (Damon) is imprisoned within The Great Wall, he discovers the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of our world.  As wave after wave of marauding beasts besiege the massive structure, his quest for fortune turns into a journey toward heroism as he joins a huge army of elite warriors to confront this unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force.


The Great Wall is Zhang Yimou's first English language speaking film and is currently the largest budget Chinese film of all time with a budget of $135 million.

Coming to cinemas on February 17th 2017.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Cops And Robbers Review 1979 Hong Kong 點指兵兵


Hong Kong new wave thriller 'Cops and Robbers' is brutal, exciting and very effective.

Sergeant Chan Lap Kei(Wong Chung) leads his team including fresh faced Pretty Boy(Cheung Kwok Keung) on a mission to bring down a gang of bank robbers. Unfortunately their maniacal leader Biu(Hui Bing Sam) manages to escape and goes on a murderous rampage of revenge against the cops and their unsuspecting families.

Directed by Alex Cheung in 1979, this was actually made before the heroic bloodshed era began and it probably helped inspire the likes of John Woo, Johnnie To and Ringo Lam. While having violent and bloody shootouts, Cops and Robbers also focuses on themes of brotherhood and loyalty.

Each character’s story and relationships are built up effectively so when the time come for them to confront the psychopath Biu, you actually care for them. And when characters start getting killed off, it is a genuine worry. The last half hour is incredibly nail biting as it gets more brutal and violent and literally no one is safe.


Director Cheung often let's the story take a back seat while the action unfolds. From violent in your face shoot outs to great chase scenes, there is plenty of action to enjoy. The heist scenes are extremely tense, gritty and realistic. Another real highlight of the film is an incredible foot chase of the cops hunting Biu through a shanty town which is brought to life wonderfully, an intriguing and exciting edge of the seat scene which shows how great a director Alex Cheung is.

All of the actors deliver a fine job, although their performances aren't what captures your interest. Hui Bing Sam does deserve special credit for his role as Biu. He is genuinely one of the most frightening villains in any Cop thriller. He gets more and more psychotic as the story unfolds to the point were he becomes a complete maniac.


Cops And Robbers may be very dated in some ways. Technically speaking, it doesn't look as polished or stylish as recent Hong Kong thrillers. There are also some scenes which would be omitted if this was made now such as the intro with the kids and the musical numbers. But the story, themes and characters are still very relevant to this day and the film still holds up wonderfully while its 90+ minute running time zooms by. Cops And Robbers is definitely due a remastered release before it is lost for good and we are all robbed of a classic.

A must see part of history for Hong Kong cinephiles.

8/10



Thursday, 16 June 2016

Red Light Revolution Review 2010 China


A genuinely funny comedy from China which is surprisingly about a sex shop!

Shunzi (Jun Zhao) is in a bad way. Not only has his girlfriend recently left him, but he has been sacked from his job as a taxi driver. Back living with his parents and with no income of his own, Shunzi's prospects seem bleak. When a successful former school friend (Xiduo Jiang) points him in the direction of Iggy (Masanobu Otsuka), a cut-price supplier of adult goods, Shunzi decides that anything is worth a try. He proceeds to open his own adult shop, with the help of his friend, Lili (Vivid Wang), but will the residents of the neighbourhood dare to visit the store?

The idea of China releasing a comedy film about a sex shop is rather surprising given the stories about their film censorship laws. But at the time of it's UK release, Red Light Revolution still didn't have a Chinese distributor, rather not surprising. The film is directed by Sam Voutas, an Australian living in China, and it explores his views on a capitalist and Communist China.

Red Light Revolution doesn't rely on shock tactics and isn't as racy as American comedies such as American Pie. The humour is more subtle and grounded and there are no boobs in sight. The comedy is used appropriately for the situations and doesn't go for cheap laughs.

Blow up doll was made in China

Jun Zhao delivers an excellent performance as Shunzi, who is as much of a loveable loser as you could hope for. A real character that you sympathise with, empathise with but also can't stop laughing at. The character is played with hilarious self-deprecation.

Vivid Wang is an excellent co-lead as Lili and plays a role which is a lot more than a standard love interest. The on screen chemistry of Lili and Shunzi is extremely fun and their comedy timing is great which really makes the film fly by it's 90 minute run time.

Filled with many laughs, some a little risky and some clever and witty. But it's the kindness and love between the characters that makes Red Light Revolution heartwarming and a really fun watch.

It's a new day, yes it is!

The film slightly loses it's footing towards the end. There should have been more scenes with the characters working in the sex shop and showing their daily lives and wacky customers which was one of the most intriguing and entertaining parts of the story.

One of the best comedies to come out of China and easily the most universally accessible. Every joke and character really translates well to the western audience and that isn't always the case with Asian comedies.

7.5/10

http://www.redlightrevolution.com/

Red Light Revolution is released in the UK by Terracotta Distribution. It is an excellent release, with great video quality and packed full of extras.




Thursday, 9 June 2016

Badge of Fury Review 2011 China 不二神探

Shallow, uneven, messy, barely funny comedy which doesn't star Jet Li.

When a spate of murders erupt across Hong Kong, two kick-ass cops are assigned to the case. Chaos soon escalates when they reach a dead end and the detectives must play a deadly game to lure the killer out.

Everything about the marketing of this film, including that synopsis(which I lifted from Amazon.co.uk) makes it looks like a Jet Li action/shoot ‘em up film. The trailer and the cover both paint a very different picture from the actual film.

Firstly, Jet Li isn't the main star. To their credit, he is used in a lot of fight scenes though. The main star is Wen Zhang who plays a cop called Wang Bu-Er and partners with Huang Fei-Hong(Li). Wang is used for more comic relief, although he gets involved in the action and chase scenes he usually ends up messing it up and constantly embarrassing himself. Huang is more of a straight laced cop but often saves the day with his Kung Fu skills. This doesn't actually sound too bad, but there are just far too many issues.

... Do you owe someone a favour as well Jet?

The comedy is really hit or miss, probably depending on the audience. Some of the comedy is just way too stupid and over the top that it draws no reaction. There are a few genuine chuckles in there, which would be fine, if it wasn't supposed to be a comedy!

Badge of Fury could have been like an 80s Hong Kong Film. The plot, the action and some of the comedy is similar. But it suffers from some aspects that many modern Chinese films do, including a reliant on bad CGI, too much wire work and complete over the top wackiness. Some of the scenes could have genuinely been lifted from a kids cartoon.

There are enough cameos from Chinese/Hong Kong actors to mostly keep you entertained. Along with the ridiculous movie spoofs from Men in Black to Star Wars to Police Story, there is always something going on, just most of it isn't very good.

If you like Asian comedies and go into this one expecting that and not expecting much of Jet Li, and definitely don't take any of it seriously, then you may find some fun to be had. But it more or less fails on nearly every level of film-making.

3/10




Thursday, 26 May 2016

Sake Bomb Review 2013 Japan


 Sake Bomb is an American Japanese film which falls somewhere between a low budget American comedy and an indie Japanese drama while retaining most of the good points and a few of the bad from both.

A comedic road movie about a sarcastic Asian American and his Japanese cousin. Sebastian is a bitter, self-deprecating wannabe Internet star from Los Angeles. He is recently dumped by his girlfriend and on the look out for someone new. When his cousin Naoto, a naive sake maker from Japan, shows up to find his own ex-girlfriend, Sebastian takes him to northern California to find her. They are a clash of cultures waiting to happen. Someone has to break first. Together they meet a colourful group of characters as they come to grips with who they are and the true nature of the girlfriends they're pursuing. 

Never take your shoes off when entering an American house...

A Sake Bomb is a shot of Sake dropped in to beer and then downed, this accurately describes the film as a Japanese man is dropped in to American culture head first. Co-starring Gaku Hamada and Eugene Kim as the Japanese and American cousins respectively, who both deliver great performances while also representing the different cultures of the East and West.

Gaku Hamada(Fish Story/See You Tomorrow, Everyone) is easily one of the most likeable actors working today. While delivering a subtle role he still always manage to convey a vulnerability which makes you rally behind him. His character of Naoto is very much Japanese, from his mannerisms to his shyness, he is used perfectly in this fish out of water role which often leads to extremely comical moments.

Eugene Kim plays the role of Sebastian who is the opposite of Naoto is nearly every way. Loud, opinionated, obnoxious and bordering on racist, he isn't the most likeable character. Although, as you get to know the character and understand the root of his problems, you do feel more sympathetic towards him and he will even be relatable to some.

Every time you hear a racist joke, do a Sake Bomb!

Tackling the issues of Eastern stereotypes by Westerners is handled extremely well for a low budget comedy, some of these scenes can actually be pretty emotional and recieve a good reaction. Other racial views are used for shock, which can also generate proper laughs, but it's not done in a cheap way.

The issues with Sake Bomb are it's let down by the familiarity. The story is pretty straight forward and there are no real twists or anything unexpected along this way. That could have elevated the film from good to great. However, there is a great emotional payoff with Sebastian's character which is worth it.

Sake Bomb is a fun buddy road movie, which isn't essential viewing but still an entertaining watch, it's similar to other American indie comedies in story but tackles subjects which are very different.

7/10

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Phone Review 2002 South Korea 폰


Phone is a solid slice of Asian horror which was released during the wave of popular horror exports from The Ring to The Grudge to Dark Water to A Tale of Two Sisters. But does Phone live up to the hype of it's counterparts?

Stylish Korean horror starring Ji-Won Ha as an investigative reporter who, having recently published a controversial article about sex scandals, has begun receiving a series of menacing phone calls. In an effort to escape the calls, she changes her number and moves house. But the calls keep coming - and when her friend's young daughter innocently answers the ringing phone, she starts to scream in terror and goes on to exhibit increasingly crazed behaviour. As she tries to unravel the mystery behind the phone calls, Ji-Won uncovers the terrible secrets that lie behind her new phone.

Something that is always striking yet refreshing about Asian horror films is that the vast majority of them play out like a mystery thriller. The frights are there. The tone is creepy. But your interest is usually kept until the very end because you are waiting for the unveil. And Phone is no exception.

The real strong point of Phone is the story which is actually clever and complex. Full of twists and turns, it takes you till the end to figure out exactly what is happening and why. And just when you have pieced it all together... They throw another twist at you!

Don't know if cute... Or creepy...

Ha Ji-won is a great lead who is likable and convincing with her desperation of trying to help her friends daughter and solve this mystery. But the little girl Young-ju played by Eun Seo-woo delivers the best performance of the film. For a child, her acting and delivery is brilliant. She can change it from cute to creepy half way through a sentence., which is remarkable.

Going in to Phone, as a horror, you are going to want to be scared. In all honesty the film doesn't fully scare you. The tone and setting is definitely creepy. But there are no real moments that will leave you feeling terrified. There is also no real "jump scares" so don't go in expecting any of those modern Hollywood scares. Phone isn't as scary as Ju-On, but it is a completely different breed of Asian horror.

All in all, South Korea did deliver another good horror film with Phone. Some of the plot and story feels similar to other Asian horrors, and maybe it wasn't as scary as it could have been. But it's a fun film with a compelling story and a stand out performance from the young girl that's definitely worth checking out.

7/10



Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Secret Review 2007 Taiwan 不能說的秘密



Jay Chou’s directorial debut is an interesting and engaging drama with an original story full of twists which will leave you dumbfounded. Starring Jay Chou(Initial D) and Gwei Lun-mei(Black Coal, Thin Ice).

Yeh Hsiang-lun/Jay (Chou) is an exceptionally gifted pianist who has recently transferred to the Tan Jiang College of Arts at the behest of his father (Anthony Wong). One day, while walking through the school's soon-to-be-demolished conservatory, Yeh hears an intoxicating melody being performed by talented Lu Hsaio-yu/Rain (Guey Lun-mei).

Jay Chou rocking that school uniform


Secret is one of those films that you really can't describe too much in the synopsis or go into too much depth in discussion because that will ruin the entire point of the film. Everyone should avoid reading message boards or spoiler reviews before they see this film, it's the best way to enjoy it and get the full effect. The first hour almost plays out like a love triangle drama, then suddenly the film becomes much much more.

While Jay Chou might not be known as the greatest actor. He pulls off roles like this. Jay has the charisma and charm to make it work. Gwei Lun-mei is a stunning actress and carries the emotional side of the film, as well as making the chemistry between her and Jay believable.

Kung Fu and action scenes are replaced in Secret by intricate piano battles and compositions. Director, writer and actor Jay Chou really gets to show off his musical genius with not only the piano playing scenes but also the soundtrack, many of the songs were composed and performed by Jay himself. The title song “Secret” went on to win Best Original Song at the 44th Golden Horse Awards. The score is fantastic, offering drama to the simplest scenes, and sending the exciting scenes through the roof.

Listen to my award winning soundtrack


Anthony Wong plays a great supporting role as Jay’s father, which is the second time he's played this role, Initial D being the first. Anthony is instantly likable in this role and actually gets to exercise those acting chops in some important scenes. There is great screen chemistry between Jay and Anthony Wong, some more scenes focusing on their relationship would have been a bonus.

Visually, Secret looks fantastic. The school chosen for the story is a stunning building with wonderful interiors and green surrounding parks. Another high point of Secret is the visual effects. For a film with a relatively low budget there is some wonderful looking added special effects. This of course all looks even more spectacular on this excellent Blu-Ray release from Edko Films.

Secret is a really great film! It was probably aimed at the teen audience, but it is more complex than a standard love drama and I think it is fitting for everyone. Plus, it further cements just how creative the writer, musician, actor and director Jay Chou is.

8/10

Be wary, this disc was locked to Region A. Blu-ray.com has it listed as Region Free, so there may be various editions out there.


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Admiral: Roaring Currents Review South Korea 2014 명량


Director Kim Han-min’s(War of The Arrows) 16th century historical epic is one of the greatest naval battle films ever made. And it now happens to be the biggest grossing South Korean film of all time. Starring Choi Min-sik(Oldboy/Lucy), Ryu Seung-ryong(Blades of Blood), Cho Jin-woong(Nameless Gangster), Jin Goo(Mother), Lee Jung-hyun(Juvenile Offender) and Kim Myung-gon(Masquerade).

South Korean war drama based on the Battle of Myeongnyang which took place in 1597. After being disgraced and demoted Yi Sun-shin (Min-sik Choi) is reinstated to Admiral and commands the last 12 ships of the Joseon Navy in a battle against the invading Japanese forces and their fleet of 200. Against the odds, can Yi lead his men to victory?

Spectacular looking film based on the true battle led by revered Admiral Yi Sun-shin. Domestic audiences are well aware of the history and facts of this legendary battle, but international audiences are in for some surprises and a real treat.

Squad Goals.

Yi was known for his strategies. Using unorthodox tactics, “turtle” ships and even the current to win battles. The story is interesting from beginning to end, but it's the battle scenes were things really get compelling and exciting. You never know exactly what Yi has up his sleeve, and some of his tactics are rather surprising.

Visually the battle scenes are spectacular and intense. A fine blend between CGI and replica ships, the scenes look extremely realistic with only a few sketchy CGI moments. The ships look fantastic, especially up close, and especially while they are being blown to pieces sending woodchips and bodies flying everywhere.

Stunning costumes in The Admiral.

The 2nd half of the film is action filled, but the first half is filled of backstories and character development. This causes some issues as there are too many side stories and characters being introduced from both sides that it gets complicated and hard to keep up.

Minor issues aside. Choi Min-sik delivers another stunning performance. A reserved but still charismatic, intimidating performance. The Japanese characters(played by Korean actors) are also extremely interesting in their methods and the costume designs are stunning with the Samurai-esque outfits,

A great war film from South Korea which is extremely different from their usual North Vs South war story. Highly recommended.

8/10




Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny Review 2016 臥虎藏龍:青冥寶劍


Arriving 16 years after the original, Sword of Destiny doesn't live up to it's predecessor as a sequel, but as a film on it's own merits it is decent, entertaining and reminiscent of 90s Kung Fu films.

Renowned warrior Yu Shu-Lien comes out of retirement to keep the legendary Green Destiny sword away from villainous warlord Hades Dai.

An extremely basic plot, but it works with the style of film. The main point that can't be emphasised enough is, do not go in to this expecting the original Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Times have changed. The budget is smaller. It has a different director, different producers, different writers and the only returning cast member is Michelle Yeoh. It can't match the original. But it is a fun Wuxia film in it's own right.

Could this be Yen's last Wuxia film?

If you are wanting some great fight scenes, then you will get your Netflix money's worth. That's one of the high praises CTHD2 has, the great Martial Art scenes. Directed by legendary Yuen Woo-ping and starring Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen, the fights were always going to be good. But they honestly surpassed expectations. The fights are fast, furious and vicious and all completely varied throughout. There is a fight in a tavern which has great comedy elements. There is a stunning fight on a frozen lake which was innovative. And the last fight with Yen and Jason Scott Lee is extremely well choreographed and very exciting, even if it has a little too much CGI.

Something that Sword of Destiny relies on that the original didn't is CGI. Filmed in New Zealand instead of China, CGI is used to add in backgrounds or buildings or mountains to make the film’s setting look more like China. The majority of these are used tastefully and are actually pretty to look at. However, the CGI added to the fight scenes is when it becomes a little jarring, especially the last fight when it comes across unnecessary but it never ruined the scene or made it unwatchable.

Michelle Yeoh is superb in her role as usual. And Yen always delivers. The rest of the cast all vary from acceptable to good. Jason Scott Lee is a great villain, a little over the top but all in the best way, and he looks like he is having a blast in the role. The rest of the English speaking cast do a fine job in their limited roles, some of the dialogue may sound a little cheesy but acceptable. It is pretty amusing to see a Wuxia film with Asian actors with accents varying from American to Australian to English.

The magnificent Michelle Yeoh

Yeoh playing the teacher to Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) is one of the most interesting dynamics. The 2 characters have great chemistry together and a relationship that should have had more screen time. These scenes were done wonderfully and another great highlight of the film.

For the purists who are going to complain about this film regardless, one of the main issues they have is that it was filmed in English. Well, an interesting option is you can change the audio language to Chinese with English subtitles. After checking this out it does add a bit of authenticity to the film, although there is no real issue with the original English language. But the option is there.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is an interesting experiment. The name has obviously been used for marketing purposes. People who loved the original will watch it out of curiosity and people who already have Netflix will surely watch it just out of interest. I just hope that the film gets great viewing figures because Netflix is the future and I would love to see them fund more Kung Fu films or Asian films in general.

7/10



Monday, 29 February 2016

Office Review 2015 Johnnie To 華麗上班族



Johnnie swaps cops, gangsters and shootouts for office workers and catchy musical numbers in his new film Office.

Billion-dollar company Jones & Sunn is going public. Chairman Ho Chung-ping (Chow Yun-fat) has promised CEO Winnie Cheung (Sylvia Chang), who has been his mistress for more than twenty years, to become a major shareholder of the company. Lee Seung (Wang Ziyi), a new hire at Jones & Sunn, brings with him youthful ideals and dreams. On Lee Seung’s first day he is paired with another new start, under qualified Kat (Lang Yueting) who has her own secret agenda. As the IPO team enters the company to audit its accounts, a series of inside stories start to be revealed.

Johnnie To making a financial based musical is such a crazy idea on the surface to the western fans. Most western fans know of To for his action and bloodshed films. But, he has actually directed a bunch of comedy and drama films, so it isn't that much of a stretch for new territory.


The financial world setting works well and comes across as fun and even exciting in parts. Set before and after the 2008 financial crisis, there is enough meat to chew on.

The music is extremely upbeat and easy going even if you don't understand the native language, the feeling isn't lost through the subtitles although some of the lyrics might not translate as poetically to English. Some real catchy songs are included and also a superbly shot dance which left me in awe.

Office does have it's problems, one being the length. At just under 2 hours, it almost feels like you are putting a shift in at your work office and time is going by slow while you are willing it to end. This is about the 3rd quarter mark though, and the film does pick up again thankfully.

Another issue is the main character's stories. Lee Seung and Kat have the easiest going sections, full of humour and both likable characters, their story plods along at a reasonable pace. Chow Yun-fat doesn't star in this film, it's a "special appearance". And, although his character Ho Chung-ping is conflicted, you still find yourself rallying behind him, and as usual it's another great performance.


The third story revolves around David Wong played by Eason Chan. David is really the only villain type of the story, and unfortunately the part which is least interesting. Oddly David is the most polished character and Eason delivers a fine performance. But there is too much already going on and the film would have benefited with his story being trimmed down.

Saving the best for the last, the set design is simply incredible. I don't think a film about an office environment could actually look any better. Based on Sylvia Chang’s stage play Design for Living. The film has embraced it's theatre roots. Filmed entirely on a set, the office changes to a rooftop, a convince store, a nightclub, apartments and much more. The sets are made up of long lights, mainly blacks and whites, long vertical lines, and a giant clock. It's almost simple bare bone sets but with a neon steampunk twist. And it is exquisite. Production designer William Chang has created stunning sets which almost takes the world they create to style over substance as you can't peel your eyes off these stunning visuals.

Office is still a fun harmless film and if you enjoy musicals you will get plenty of enjoyment out of it. However, it just isn't up to the standard that Johnnie To has been delivering to us for so long.

6.5/10



Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Mermaid Review 2016 美人鱼



The Mermaid

The Mermaid is the latest film from fan favourite Stephen Chow. Unfortunately for viewers Stephen Chow yet again doesn't star in his own film, but he is a marvelous comedic Director and his comedy timing is perfect in his new fantasy-romantic-comedy film.

Real estate tycoon Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) has been making a fortune using new sonar technology which happens to destroy all near by sea-life. Liu buys up a large area of protected land which he intends to use for real estate development, it just so happens this area is the home to a group of mermaids.
The mermaids hatch a plan to take down Liu Xuan and get him to abort his new development. The plan involves getting one of the mermaids to seduce and then kill him. Shan (Lin Yun/Jelly Lin) is chosen as the sexiest mermaid, she gets modified and trained to blend in with the humans then complete her mission.

From the synopsis, you can almost guess where this film is going. The basic story isn't that fresh but the film as a whole is completely original and distinctive from pretty much any film for years. Comparable to possibly only Splash and The Little Mermaid, this is such a refreshing take on the mermaid rom-com genre.

The Mermaid is genuinely hilarious. Full of great entertaining and creative gags, there's something that makes you genuinely laugh every few minutes, the pacing is brilliant. There is great uses of subtle humour in a scene with Liu trying to explain to the police that he was kidnapped by mermaids which had the cinema roaring. But there is also plenty of crazy slapstick comedy, one scene in particular is of Shan trying to kill her target and failing miserably, it gets stretched out with each gag getting funnier and more absurd.

A Mermaid... half person, half fish.

The cast are all brilliant in their roles. Liu Xuan comes off great as a wealthy jerk who is actually misunderstood and looking for real love. The Octopus played by Show Luo was surprisingly good and involved in a couple of hilarious scenes, one involving him pretending to be a chef and part of his body ends up getting cooked for customers.

But Shan(Lin Yun) is the star of the show. Unknown to most audiences, the 19 year old's performance is adorable and incredibly cute. Full of quirkiness, from her facial expressions, to reactions, to her waddling about pretending to be human. Lin Yun has an ocean full of charisma and could go on to be a big star. She reminds me of a young Shu Qi mixed with Zhang Ziyi, only a lot more warming.

I hope no one notices I'm peeing right now.

Like a lot of Chinese comedies, the tone of the film changes drastically at points. Towards the end it gets a little too dark, which shocked me considering how light in tone the rest was. But this is more as part of their environmental message, which is still as important today as ever. Using real footage of water pollution and dying sea-life, The Mermaid does contain an underlying message from Chow which should be applauded.

The CGI in The Mermaid is hit or miss. In some scenes it actually looks pretty great. In others, it stands out too much and is quite jarring with how fake it looks. But for a comedy, this isn't actually too important. And in some ways, it almost adds to the charm of the film.

A shock to many, The Mermaid has not only gone on to become the highest grossing film in China. It is also now the 2nd highest grossing film in the WORLD this year, so far!
Sitting right behind Deadpool, it's second in terms of money. But for me The Mermaid is first in terms of laughs.

7.5/10

The Mermaid is currently showing in many cinemas across the UK, USA, AUS/NZ and of course Asia. So check if any cinemas near by are showing it now!



Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats Review Japan 2014 福福荘の福ちゃん



Fuku-chan of Fukufuku Flats

Billed as a comedy, Fuku-chan actually plays out more like a very well told drama with some great humour inbetween.

32-year-old Tatsuo Fukuda, nickname Fuku-chan (Miyuki Oshima), is a painter who lives in a run-down apartment complex called Fukufuku Flats. One day, an unfamiliar woman turns up at Fukufuku Flats. It is Chiho, his first love from his junior high school days who he has not seen for around 20 years, and she has come to apologize for something that happened in their past. As Fuku-chan allows himself to get caught up in Chiho's quest to become a photographer, he begins to fall in love all over again with this woman who was responsible for the traumatizing incident that led to his fear of women...

A very interesting story which really doesn't come together until about 40 minutes or more into the film. Until that point it's really not clear how the characters are connected. But the main and supporting characters daily antics, and character development is enough to keep the film rolling at a fast pace until it all comes together.


The heart of the film belongs to the character Fuku-Chan and the actress who plays him Miyuki Oshima. A female comedian is certainly an interesting choice for a 32 year old male, but with her dedication to the role by shaving her head and gaining weight, Miyuki plays the part perfectly with grace and believability. It's a charming role which will certainly attract a lot of attention.

The comedy varies from subtle humour to occasionally going way over the top. Way way over the top. But even then, it still gets a positive reaction and it's a film that will definitely make you smile regardless. One scene in a curry house is so absurd that you can't help but laugh at the situation and ridiculousness.

An extremely fun film. Not life changing, but the simple story with the intriguing characters works very well. A film that will warm your heart, put a big smile on your face and make you fall in love with Fuku-Chan.

7/10

Another excellent release from Third Window Films.



#FukuChanofFukuFukuFlats #ThirdWindowFilms #YosukeFujita #MiyukiOshima #AsamiMizukawa #YoshiyoshiArakawa

Monday, 15 February 2016

A Moment of Romance Review Hong Kong 1990 天若有情


A Moment Of Romance

Classic Hong Kong Cinema at it's very finest. Superb film by Benny Chan with a wonderful story and characters and a career defining performance from Andy Lau.

Queue the montages.

Wah Dee is a skilled motorbike rider and getaway driver but is still seen as a small time gangster in the Triad ranks. After a botched heist where Wah Dee is working as the getaway driver, to avoid being caught by the police he takes a young girl Jojo (Wu Chien-Lien/Jacklyn Wu) hostage. The rest of the gang decide they want the girl dead after she sees all of their faces, Wah Dee volunteers to take care of her, but actually sets her free. This starts an unlikely romance between a low level Triad and an innocent rich girl.

Moment of Romance isn't the most original story, in fact there were many similar films from Hong Kong around this time. But the depth of the characters and the directing is what makes it stand out.

There is nothing cooler than Andy Lau riding a motorbike!

Andy Lau is instantly likable as the calm cool gangster, who,  although being a Triad, he seems like he secretly wants a clean happy life. His motorbike riding scenes along with the music is so iconic it will stay with you! And has also now been spoofed and copied many, many times.

The music is also excellently fitting. The score and original songs fit the movie like a glove. And the cantopop slow motion montages aren't used in a cheap way, but instead they progress and develop the story.

The violence and action scenes are shot gritty and realistic in an unflinching way which suits the Triad drama and makes some scenes uneasy to watch, and also makes you really feel and worry for the characters.


Speaking of iconic. The ending to the film, and the last shot before the credits are extremely haunting and will stay with you for a long time.

A real gem of Hong Kong filmmaking. Recommended to all. If you are a fan of Hong Kong cinema this is on your must watch list.

8.5/10

#MomentOfRomance #天若有情 #BennyChan #AndyLau #JacklynWu