Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review The Myth a.k.a. Shen hua (2005)

genre: action, adventure, martial arts

This is a much better movie than previous Jackie Chan movies made in Hollywood! There is more of a story and more drama. The scenery is excellent. It really brings out the beauty China and India has to offer. After reading several comments from reviewers I can not understand that they did not like this movie. Yes it's a little more serious, yes it is not typical JC action. But people forget JC is not up to his stunts because of his age. Still he kicks ass like the martial artist he is. I am a Jackie Chan fan since I could watch movies (I think when I was around 5 years old)! And i have always liked his movies until he made real bad ones in Hollywood. Since his return in Hongkong you can see the improvement (maybe freedom he has making this movie). The use of CGI was fitting for this kind of story. Honestly I really was moved by the story. Something I did not expect. People who love action you will get what you want, amazing stunts and the best martial arts. Also you romantic lovers will not be disappointed. I have only one point of criticism and that is the abrupt ending. But overall one of the better (Jackie Chan) movies made these last years. 

Heroic Bloodshed

A genre of Hong Kong action cinema revolving around stylized action sequences and dramatic themes such as brotherhood, duty, honour, redemption and violence.

I thought it was time to pay a little attention to this genre especially for the action lovers among us. Because there is no doubt that the following titles I am going to discuss are one of the best action titles in existence. There is only one man who is the absolute king of the Heroic Bloodshed genre. And that is John Woo. With his movies like a Better Tomorrow 1 and 2, The Killer and Hard Boiled he introduced a style that has been copied many times but till date never has been surpassed. My absolute favourite movie of this genre is Hard Boiled. I can watch it over and over again and never get bored. A true action classic. So here a review of that movie and other titles made by John Woo.

Hard Boiled (1992)

" heroic bloodshed as it should be"

JOHN WOO IS GOD AND CHOW YAN FAT IS THE SON OF GOD!!! (Ok, this might be a little on the dramatic side but trust me you will be shouting to once you have seen this film.) This is an action movie for the fans. The first scenes will surprise you and seem chaotic. But if you watch it more often and carefully you will see a well choreographed action sequence which is just a sample of the rest of the movie. The sequences will improve and amaze you every minute. Fasten your seatbelt's and get ready for a roller-coaster ride. This one surpasses FACE OFF easily. Chow Yan Fat (Tequila) is the hard boiled cop who is trigger happy and brutal. But even then you just love the guy.Talk about charisma. As this wasn't the case with John Travolta (who was unconvincing as the good cop in FACE OFF). All the trademarks from John Woo's movies are represented, pigeons, jazz music, (speed)boats, friendship and shootouts (in slow motion), lot's of slow motion. If you liked the Matrix trilogy, then you will love Hard Boiled, because the action is far better (and without the digital effects, cgi). And if there was doubt this is one of the movies in the genre where the Warschowski brothers got their inspiration from. Max Payne (the video game) is a tribute to this movie and every movie John Woo made in the genre. Need I say more!  

The Killer (1989)

As a big fan of John Woo and Chow Yan Fat I have to recommend this movie to people who haven't seen this already. It shows you action without the use of CGI and still manages to surprise you. There are lot of HK action movies who are compared and categorized in the same genre as The Killer.  But to be honest a lot of these titles aren't in the same league. The action, (the most beautiful slowmo shootouts) in combination with the drama make this a classic of superior quality. The story isn't that interesting. The reason that this doesn't matter is Chow Yan Fat. He manages to carry this movie all by himself. His pain is our pain. He will get you involved in such a way that you really care about his character without any effort. His charisma is overwhelming. It is just a joy to see this man in action. The interactions between him and Danny Lee are also something to look out for. Like Hardboiled this is a roller-coaster ride. People who really love action movies have to have seen this movie at least once!

A Better Tomorrow (1986)

This is the movie that started it all. A new genre was born called Heroic Bloodshed. A Better Tomorrow seems like a typical Hong Kong gangster drama. It is not, it is much more thanks to John Woo. The story has it's moments. But like most of his movies it is about the action. The three main characters are Chow Yan Fat, Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung. Although Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung give good performances. Chow Yan fat steals the show by far. It is a joy to see him, no matter what scene it is. He is the embodiment of coolness in this movie. It is to bad such a fine and versatile actor doesn't get the chance to make really good movies in Hollywood.(Honestly the guy can do any genre you throw at him from drama to comedy. And yet they cast him in productions that are merely bad copies of those he starred in Hong Kong).  As I mentioned before this movie is about the action. The slow mo shootouts are superb. The scene where Mark kills some bad guys after they betrayed Ti Lung is classic and is parodied very often. You will see why. The setup to this shootout is great. And if you never had seen any of Woo's movies you never would have expected it. There is also quite some melodrama going on. And I know that for some this will be the time that they fast forward to the action scenes. However I do think that it adds to the ultra violence displayed here. If the characters you care for get shot in slow motion that simply gets to you. Woo knew exactly how to emphasize these moments visually. The climax is nothing short of brilliance. So do yourself a favour and go watch this movie already if you haven't. 

A Better Tomorrow 2 (1987)

Yes,this movie is a masterpiece! It has all of the trademarks John Woo is known for. And very important it has Chow Yan Fat. He is back as Mark's brother Ken. Maybe a bit to convenient,but who cares. Chow Yan Fat is extra cool in this movie. Is that possible? Yes, it is! Nice detail is the scene where Ken receives Mark's coat with the bullet holes (in which he got shot at the end of Better tomorrow 1). He uses these holes to put in grenades and guns.Like it was planned that way. There is more melodrama which in this case intensifies the action sequences. The shoot outs are bigger and better than the first movie. 
*Spoiler* (Don't read beyond this if you never seen the movie before. However I think knowing the outcome doesn't change the enjoyment one bit.

Every main (male) character dies at the end. Heroic Bloodshed to the maximum. 

*End Spoiler* 

If you look closely to most of the scenes you will see where Quentin Tarantino got his ideas from (for example men in black suits with guns). Also a sequence is used in True Romance for which Quentin Tarantino wrote the screenplay. This movie is the best of the series and without a doubt the third best movie John Woo has made. With The Killer being the second best and Hard Boiled being his best all time! Watch it already.

Other Titles (Non John Woo):

Return Engagement 
a.k.a. Zai zhan jiang hu (1990)

Return Engagement (RA) is one of those bloodshed titles where the action is more important than the the story and drama. The action, especially the ending is one to watch over and over again. Being a fan of heroic bloodshed with gun play (in slow motion), I can't get enough of these titles. Compared to action movies made in US, this one is a gem. If they made more titles like this one than I would be in heaven. Alan Tang really does a good job as the father who tries to make a mends with his daughter. Simon Yam is the typical bad guy in these kind of movies, but still he delivers style to his acting. Andy Lau plays Alan's sidekick with flair. RA made in the eighties certainly is still enjoyable now. Watch it!

City War 
a.k.a. Yi dan hong chun (1988)

A movie containing Chow Yan Fat and Ti lung cannot go wrong and it doesn't. The chemistry between them is wonderful. You will laugh with them and cry with them. This movie is more about their friendship and actually has not much of a plot. For fans who expect a movie like "A Better Tomorrow", do not worry because the exploding finale makes the movie worth watching. Also there is not much style except for the action scenes. They are done superbly. Very surprisingly there is also a lot of humor and romance ,which shows the talent of Chow yan Fat. This movie can be described as an average heroic bloodshed title.

Review Flaming Brothers (1987)

This title doesn't do justice to the genre heroic bloodshed. Yes, there is bloodshed en yes it is heroic, but for the most part it is a story about a relationship between two friends (Alan Tang and Chow Yan Fat) who happen to be gangsters. Let's face it, compared to John Woo titles: Better Tomorrow series, Hard Boiled, the Killer. This movie doesn't have a chance! There is not enough action to make this worthwhile. But the acting is outstanding by Chow Yan Fat and Alan Tang. Furthermore there is not much of intrigue or excitement, so why should i watch this? Still Alan Tang really has potential for greater action drama's than this one. Return Engagement is a better example how they could combine drama in this fashion with action.

More titles for which I have yet to write a review for:
-Big Heat
-Expect the Unexpected
-Fulltime Killer
-Tiger on the Beat
-Hard Target (John Woo)
-Just Heroes (John Woo)
-Heroes Shed no Tears (John Woo)

-Rich and Famous
-Black Vengeance (sequel to Rich and Famous)
-Big Bullet

Review Endhiran a.k.a. Enthiran a.ka. The Robot (2010) (Certainly a unique experience!)

genre; action, science fiction,

You have to be prepared though. This is a movie of extremes. There is no room for subtlety. And strangely it works in the movie. What I know from South Indian cinema is that they love the fantastic genre. And Endhiran has taken it to the next level. While the cgi scenes in itself can be perceived as cheesy for the most times it was used very creatively. Simply said it was fun to look at. Rajnikant shows why he is perceived as the superstar he is.He is quite amazing in his double role although he also could be very off at times. I think that is the directions fault. Overall this movie isn't meant to make you think but to to entertain. Even when some serious subjects are getting discussed here. Of course some scenes look like they are copied from movies like Terminator or I, Robot! Still, it did not bother me at all since most scenes did gave another spin to it. Thumbs up for this production! (Oh yeah, this film does contain musical numbers though, so you have been warned).

Review Legend of the Fist a.k.a. Jing wu feng yun: Chen Zhen (2010)

genre: action, martial arts, drama,

There is only one reason to see this movie and that is Donnie Yen. It is just an amazing sight to see this master of martial arts in action. Andrew Lau however must be ashamed for trying to be so political and patriotic. Nothing wrong with nationalistic movies once in a while. But lately it has been overkill. And he is clearly over his head here since he barely makes sense of what actually is happening on the screen. Worse you won't even care apart from the obvious cruelties displayed in movies like this. It is such a shame that the focus seems to be on the plot that is hardly interesting. Luckily for Andrew Lau Donnie manages to save it all by himself but you can't but wonder what the movie would have been like if the plot was kept simple. 

Review Evil Dead Trap a.k.a. ShiryƓ no wana (1988)

genre: horror, thriller

This must be one of Oliver Stone's guilty pleasures. Because this might be twisted but daring and thrilling, I don't think so.

After having seen it for a second time I simply can say that ultimately this is nowhere the classic made out to be. Sure it starts out real well. Immediately reminding me of giallo movies only Japanese style. And honestly it had a lot of potential to indeed become a true horror classic. Only one mayor thing lacking. It never is really that thrilling. Evil dead trap relies on the gore in stead of tension. And while that in itself can work. Here it fails miserably. The gore is just not that impressive. It doesn't help that the main character and her colleagues have to be the dumbest people ever. Even for a flick like this. Miyuki Ono is attractive and charming though. You can't help but feel that she is asked to underplay her character which is such a shame since I do think that more could have come out of her performance. Do I need to say something about the ending. Well, yes. Because it is on the one hand pretty creative and on the other hand one of the most weirdest of endings you will see. Is this movie worth your time. No!  I can't recommend this one. Cause apart from the words (of the English title) Evil Dead it is nothing like that it. Although it borrows some of the camera tricks used in the immensely superior Evil Dead series. Give this one a miss if you expect to be excited. But if you want to catch up on your sleep this is the one that will guaranteed make you snooze before you know it.

Review The Outlaw Brothers a.k.a. Zui jia zei pai dang (1990)

genre: martial arts, action,

Compared to other titles in this genre of that era Outlaw Brothers just lacks that something extra to stand out. But compared to titles of this era it still is far superior. For one thing even when the story is average it still is made enjoyable mainly because of Frankie Chan and Yukari Oshima. Her kicks are amazing! The interaction between her and Frankie is so much fun and is enough to make you keep watching.There are pitfalls like so many Hong Kong movies of that time could not avoid. The humour is far from subtle. But someone familiar with the genre should be used to this by now.There is a vibe to this movie that reminded me of No Man's Land with Charlie Sheen and D.B. Sweeney. How can it not be since the main characters are car thieves. Let's say there is more of an eighties ambiance than a nineties one. Which is a good thing. Definitely one to watch! 

Review Apt a.k.a. Apateu (2006)

genre: horror

Why this movie is being compared to Ringu is a mystery to me. The only element that can be compared is the woman with the long black hair that walks funny. Personally I think this movie is much more like Ju-On: the Grudge. Does this mean that APT is not worth your time? Well, that depends. If you like these kind of horror movies than I would recommend this one. If you can't stand to see these long haired Asian chicks than you should not bother to see this movie. I think that APT does a good job in creating a creepy atmosphere and sometimes even scare you. The first 70 minutes are quite thrilling. Even the back story is compelling and touching. Only the last twenty minutes were predictable and a major letdown. As it fails to explain why the main character feels so compelled to investigate the suicides happening in the apartment building across her own. it never gets clear what the connection is between the main character and the woman from the subway. It is a real shame that they did not follow up on this part of the story since it's buildup was as scary as the main mystery. It could have provided more depth and it's solution could have made a much better ending. Some reviewers complain that this movie isn't original enough. And to some degree I can agree on that. But to be honest there aren't many horror movies out there that are truly original. Most themes are used over and over again. I think that as long as the movie is entertaining and scary enough, being unoriginal should not be an issue. APT is pretty creepy and scary and will entertain you as long as you can ignore the forced ending!