Skin Trade is an upcoming Thai-Canadian action-thriller film directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham. It was written by Dolph Lundgren, Gabriel Dowrick, and Steven Elder; John Hyamsperformed uncredited script revisions. It stars Dolph Lundgren and Tony Jaa as cops who try to take down a human trafficking ring in Bangkok. After his family is killed, Nick, a New York cop, tracks the Serbian mobsters responsible to Bangkok, where they are involved in human trafficking. Nick teams up with a Bangkok cop, Tony, to stop the operation. Their paths cross after Viktor is let loose upon diplomatic pressure and skips town, seeking refuge in a corrupt general’s mansion near the Cambodian border. Unfortunately for Nick, Viktor’s sons manage to get to his family before fleeing town, so after regaining consciousness from an RPG strike on his house, Nick decides to take his quest for revenge to Viktor. Thanks to Michael Jai White’s rogue government agent Reed, Nick is framed for the murder of Tony’s partner soon after setting foot on Royal Thai soil. Of course, who’s good and who’s bad will become clear quite quickly, but Lundgren and his co-writers have specifically engineered enough twists and turns precisely to fulfil their audience’s expectations to see each one of the marquee action stars have a go at the other.
Much of the heavy lifting here is done by Jaa, whose speed and agility has not dimmed one bit since his ‘Tom Yum Goong’ and ‘Ong Bak’ days. While his Hollywood debut in ‘Fast and Furious 7′ may have been overlooked because of the crowded ensemble, Jaa’s lead turn here will definitely not go unnoticed. His one-on-one with Lundgren in an abandoned warehouse is the film’s halfway high-water mark, pitting a lean mean warrior against a much hulkier opponent – though there is no question in our minds just who is the one that is the better fighter.
It is no wonder then that Jaa is the one chosen to take on Jai White, the latter a much worthier opponent than Lundgren skilled in the art of kickboxing not unlike Jean Claude Van-Damme in his heydays. The fight between them is brutal and ferocious, choreographed specifically to illustrate the strengths of either actor, and next to the noisy and overblown finale at a remote airstrip that it precedes, is easily the climax that the film deserves to be remembered for. Indeed, while a sizeable amount of the limited budget on which the film is made for has been reserved for explosions and other fireballs, it is the raw thrill of seeing these natural born fighters go at each other knuckle-to-knuckle that is where its charm lies.
Feature film adaptation of the the TV series, “Triumph in the Skies.” Entrepreneur/pilot Branson (Louis Koo) has just taken over Skylette Airlines. (Unbelievably) he has the time to fly one of its regular commercial routes, where he bumps into old flame Cassie (Charmaine Sheh) who is a flight attendant on his flight. They continue to bump into each other on subsequent flights and they rekindle their old romance. But will Cassie be able to trust him after he had dumped her in the past?
Given that Triumph in the Skies is based on a TV series of the same name, it’s worth noting that Matt Chow and co-director Wilson Yip provide the film with slick visuals and an interesting use of colors that help make the experience aesthetically pleasing on the eyes. The same can be said about the use of music. Although the film does deal with serious themes, it’s handled in a light way with fast enough pacing that makes it an entertaining albeit somewhat slight date movie.
Apart from Kenneth Ma and Elena Kong, the same cannot be said with the rest of the cast. Even the superstar appearances of Louis Koo and Sammi Cheng does little with their underdeveloped characters other than looking good the whole time. However, the biggest disappointment of all in the cast is Francis Ng and Julian Cheung. Both of them were great in the second season of Triumph In The Skies, but traces of their solid performances from the TVB series are hardly found in this movie version. Sure, we still get to see Francis Ng’s stoic appearance and Julian Cheung’s charismatic personality that we have grown accustomed from the TVB series. But beyond that, there is nothing much to recommend about their characters.
A mixture of prime-lens blurred-out-backgrounds, saturated colors and even old-school tobacco graduated filters for the outdoor scenery. Jackie Chan needs to grab this guy for his next movie. The songs aren’t too bad either and the six leads look good on screen. If that’s good enough for you, by all means go enjoy yourself. Aside from the visuals, what struck me was how at ease director Wilson Yip (Ip Man) and writer/director Matt Chow were with the England setting of the movie. Instead of showing cliched English landmarks; they chose quirky, bohemian, hipster locations. Recommended.
Chasuke’s Journey represents Sabu’s return to mainstream cinema, though it is in parts a typically quirky and off-the-wall piece from the innovative Japanese filmmaker. The titular journey man, Chasuke, is heaven’s tea servant; he provides herbal infusions to the robed screenwriters in the sky whose plots are then lived out on earth by their characters. One day while dishing out the tea, he gets entangled in one of the plots involving Yuri, a mute woman for whom he develops a fondness, and so is sent down to earth, where his celestial powers enable him to rewrite the script for the people he meets.
Which is perhaps why Sabu’s film degenerates quickly into nonsense – with faith healing, yakuza and a rather anodyne brickbat of a message, that we can change our destinies at any time. There are some impressive visual touches, such as the prismatic flares that light the screen in heaven, or the glittering dust that surrounds Chasuke when he harnesses his powers of immortality to cure the sick and ruin the scenarios of miserable scriptwriters, or the finale of black soul projections rising heavenwards. And it’s funny too, rattling through life stories, quoting other movies such as Ghost,Titanic and Gloria – a derivative shorthand blamed on lazy screenwriters. But its momentum peters out into a bloody yakuza comedy with nowhere to go. A confused and at times tedious muddle after a promising start, Chasuke’s Journey is a fun but haunting disappointment.
The film takes advantage, too, of the opportunity to land a few sly digs at bad writing in cinema through several well worked jokes. This helps to bed the themes of metaphysics and self-determinism into a lighter atmosphere made up of humor and action. If the film falters anywhere it would be where, despite its imaginative and charming execution, its central message is a little worn. The notion that our lives are ours to live and that we determine our own fates is nothing particularly original, and consequently the edge is slightly taken off an otherwise engaging and charismatic effort from Sabu.
Na Moon-Hee initially stars as the titular Granny…she portrays a woman in her golden years who soon finds herself becoming less & less relevant to the family she helped raised and the world she now lives in. While reflecting on her life on one particularly bleak day, she accidentally stumbles across a means to turn back the clock 50 years. Nothing else has changed with the world, but she’s now stuck in the body of her former 20 year old self. The majority of the early part of this film plays like a straightforward drama about the life of a granny and her surrounding family. Na Moon-Hee is a fine, fine actress whose primary job is to set this entire film in motion by portraying the prototypical Korean entertainment matriarch; she’s wise and kind and cares for her extended family, but she’s also stuck in her ways, nags a lot, and seemingly doesn’t have much left to look forward to in life. Na Moon-Hee spends most all of her screen time simply establishing these basic familiar traits & familial relationships, while endeavoring to provide a good deal of viewer sentiment towards the plight of her ever-aging character.
A little while in, the change from 70 year old woman to 20 year old girl occurs, and a new actress takes over in the Granny role. Shim Eun-Kyung gets the role of “Young Granny” and is ultimately the star of this film. She’s dually tasked with playing an adorable young girl from the past mixed with a modern older woman from the present, while frequently having to call upon and blend the traits of both. It’s a rather juicy part (for a rom-com melodrama) that is crucial to the overall success of this film, and Eun-Kyung does not disappoint…she is very impressive throughout this film right from the moment she bursts onto the scene. Things get pretty amusing as soon as Young Granny shows up and starts to realize what has happened to her. After some initial shock, then acceptance, she quickly gets busy taking full advantage of the opportunity at hand; Young Granny moves right back in with her family under the guise of an anonymous young boarder, and sets off on completing a proper ‘Fantasy To Do List’ (i.e. go on a shopping spree, join a band, find romance, etc…). After soaking in all that her newfound youth has to offer, and avoiding detection as long as possible, Young Granny has to eventually choose between continuing on as a 20 year old or reverting back to her older self. And, this being a Korean film, there’s probably going to be some melodrama involved with her decision.
All in all, everything falls into place quite well with this little flick. It will occasionally meander along from one set piece to another, but everything is kept moving along expediently enough. All of the auxiliary characters were relevant and solid when called upon and there are no real antagonists to speak of to get in the way of things. This movie does tend to play like a mostly lighthearted Korean fantasy TV melodrama that’s condensed and edited up into a two hour format, and, it is shamelessly sweet and sappy whenever it gets a chance to be so…but, it’s also occasionally poignant & quite charming overall, and, it is often hilarious once it starts to heat up. The film does benefit considerably from a combination of several stellar performances and some sharp writing/editing/direction when necessary…And, perhaps this film’s biggest attribute lies in its own ability to be somewhat self-deprecating; it often seems to delight in chiding a number of well-worn genre specific themes and common industry motifs, while simultaneously embracing many of those very same aspects in order to produce a simple, fun, & entertaining movie.
I’ve seen far better films this year; more original films, more exciting films, more important films, etc…Nevertheless, I can’t think of too many movies that I actually enjoyed more than ‘Miss Granny’. It’s solidly recommended no matter who you are or where you’re from, but, you’ll most definitely get more mileage out of it if you’re a fan of &/or are familiar with the Korean entertainment industry to begin with.
Chow Yun-fat is back as the titular gambler, Ken, with the magic hand. This time, the movie exaggerates his skills with CGI poker cards until it almost becomes a fantasy. But that’s to be expected in a Wong Jing’s movie. This time, the location is shifted to Thailand where Mark (Nick Cheung), an accountant in a money-laundering syndicate, DOA, is chased by Interpol and DOA. Ken has to save him and help his protégé, Vincent (Shawn Yue). Wong Jing tries to pack in everything that is entertaining into a 2 hours movie. Though it feels bloated, expect a lot of crazy and random fun. Don’t expect a coherent story and character development and it will be an enjoyable entertainment. Action is ramped out. The action scene in the middle sees a break-in of the safe house with lots of explosion and gunfire. The movie’s climax turns into a CGI set where a fight breaks out in an airplane. Music is serviceable. Direction and acting is fine too.
Compared to their scenes together, the rest of the film unfolds with the usual Wong Jing bombast. Clearly given a much huger budget, Wong Jing ups the stakes in every conceivable way. Opening with a shootout on the high seas where Ken is greeted by bikini girls with guns in jet-powered flippers, Wong Jing proceeds to blow up an entire low- rise apartment building in Bangkok and shortly after almost completely annihilate an Interpol team at their safe house with drones, machine guns and even RPGs. Certainly, that is the attitude with which Wong Jing has approached the jaw-dropping climax, which sees Chow and Cheung transported via helicopter in an elevator cab to Aoi’s fortress in the skies.
Yet, even though there are plenty of visual distractions, Wong Jing wisely keeps the movie focused squarely on Chow. He is its very lifeblood, its very heart and soul, and even though not all of Wong’s jokes hit the mark, Chow’s comic timing every single time is absolutely impeccable. He knows just the right tongue-in-cheek tone to take with each line, such that no dialogue or scene ends up being caricature. Besides Cheung and Lau, Wong also surprises fans of old- school Hong Kong cinema with a brief scene of Chow at the mah-jong table with Eric Tsang, Natalis Chan, and himself. Still, nothing can quite prepare you for the final tease, which not only sees Chow reprise his ‘God of Gamblers’ get-up but also introduce Andy Lau as Ko Chun’s disciple for a ‘blast from the past’ that is worth the price of admission alone – and sets up the possibility of a sequel we already are standing in line for.
Overall, it is an enjoyable movie for the Chinese New Year holidays. There isn’t anything new served but if you are looking for a low-brow funny action-packed movie, I don’t see why this won’t fit the description. With everything ramped for the sequel, fans will be able to enjoy the second outing. With where the movie ends, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wong Jing returns for a third outing.
Based on true events, Cart is a pro-union drama that examines, through one example, the unfair and possibly corrupt nature of the work system as it exists in South Korea, especially in how it regards its female workforce (which is to say, barely at all). In the store of the fictitious supermarket chain simply known as The Mart, a huge, predominantly female staff constitute their cashiers and cleaning crew, all hired as part-time employees with the promise of full employment if they can keep their record spotless through their probationary period (which is seemingly indefinite). All seems fine until the day all of these part-timers get notice that they’ve been effectively terminated, then outsourced to a subcontractor that will let them continue working there without their previous pay rates, benefits, or promise of a stable future from The Mart.
Reeling from the news, the women are scared for the future but demonstrably upset at their treatment, ultimately forming a union in order to fight for the company to keep the promises they made to them. However, the company isn’t really interested in playing ball with them, offering bribes of full positions to the union leaders and other potentially illegal moves to break them up. The women soon discover how low they’re viewed when the media and police seem to be slanted in favor of the corporation, while their home situations get bleaker with each unpaid day that passes.
Directed by female filmmaker Boo-Ji-young (Sisters on the Road), this socially relevant exploration puts a much-needed face on the workers who many often see and avoid engaging with as they picket our local stores, or complain about when seeing them on the news “inconveniencing” everyone with their demands for more pay and benefits. Many of these women are single mothers with mouths to feed, and are looked at as more easy to push around because the company knows these ladies really need their jobs to keep food on the table. Without any allies, if they don’t stand up for each other, there’s absolutely no one who will stand up for them at all.
A very sad movie that paints a tragic side of Japanese culture, or can it happen in any culture, regardless of economic development? People yearning for love, care, respect and recognition and identification, but what they meet is betrayal, ignorance, bullying, and violence. Very twisted characters and relationships that make you feel so disappointed and horrified with humanity. On the surface, or in the beginning, you see angels who seem to be your revelation. Kanako appears to be such an angel. But not until his cop father starts to look into her disappearance does he realize how much he understands/misunderstands his daughter, ditto his wife and vice versa. Similar misperception happens at school and in the police station. Perhaps it just serves as a warning sign to us all…
Akikazu Fujishima is an absolute bastard. A real piece of the proverbial. Losing his job as a detective due to his mental health, he soon gains alcoholism and a job as a security guard, but loses his wife and daughter. Living in his own filth, he suddenly receives a call from his estranged wife asking if he’s seen their daughter. With a number of recent murders connected to his missing daughter, Akikazu soon becomes caught up in police investigations, frequent battles with his wife and gang violence. In true Hollywood-style, he decides to take the case of his missing daughter on himself, discovering the world of his daughter that he never knew, and maybe wishes he never did. Starring Koji ‘always in the big film’ Yakusho as Mr Bastard, the film starts with Tarantino-esque retro titles, loud, brash and in your face. This sets the standard for two hours of intense, graphic and probably over-the-top cinema. ‘The World of Kanako’ is a good film, but you come away thinking that it could have been a bit simpler.
There are definite elements of the three previously mentioned Nakashima films all present here: The in-your-face, cartoonish styling of ‘Kamikaze Girls'; the epic life story, enigmas and musical montages of ‘Memories of Matsuko‘; and the, at times, overly intense psychology of ‘Confessions‘. All are employed effectively here again, creating a extreme, dark and out-of-this-world experience for both the characters and viewers alike. But, a little like Tarantino, things get a little indulgent here. Most obviously is the violence: blood splatters across pretty much every scene with teenage acne-like glee, with the make-up department working overtime in getting everyone’s face suitably disfigured. Everyone hits everyone hard, with sound effects to match, and then they walk into the next scene for it all to happen again. While I don’t mind a bit of violence on screen , when it’s relentless it can become both a little boring and lacking impact.
The switching between past and present also gets a little overdone, though generally throughout is the film’s strength in creating both mystery and builds as the film continues. Though by the end, the switching becomes too frequent, blurring the lines between the past and the present, with endless editing. The films starts well, but starts to fall off as the end grows nearer. The violence becomes too much, cartoon-like in a film that creates an intense atmosphere. More and more characters come in towards the end, that maybe didn’t need introducing. But disappointingly the intensity that is built throughout the film gets lost in this violence, seeing the viewer switch off and despite trying lacks the well rounded conclusion of ‘Memories of Matsuko‘ and ‘Confessions‘. But Nakashima is a director that can certainly create an experience through cinema.
Child kidnap genre has been the most sought after in South Korean cinema, however, Korean writer director Jung Geun Sub makes his debut with “Montage”, adding one more thriller orbiting around the child kidnap. It has Uhm Jung Hwa (“Bestseller“) in the lead, playing a mother trying to solve the mystery of her daughter’s murder before the statute of limitations expires, Kim Sang Kyung (“The Tower”, “Memories of Murder”) and Song Young Chang (“Nameless Gangster“) play detectives. Ha Kyung (Uhm Jung Hwa) whose young daughter is kidnapped and killed, the perpetrator never being caught in the face of the best efforts of detective Chung Ho (Kim Sang Kyung. After 15 years, just five days before the statute of limitations and the case is about to be closed, Chung Ho finds a recently placed white flower at the crime scene, a location known only to Ha Kyung, the police and the killer. As the two of them race against time to revisit the case and follow the new clues, another girl is snatched under very similar circumstances under the nose of her grandfather Han Chul (Song Young Chang), making the search for the murderer even more desperate.
We have recently seen the statute of limitations’ portrayal in Confession of Murder with some high octane action and utmost thrilling elements. However, “Montage” takes an entirely diverse screenplay which distinguishes it from an occasional thriller. Director, Jung Geun Sub keeps the action tone to a low level and weaves the suspense and hard hitting emotional drama. Story is real strength of movies, which is presented proficiently and characters’ graphs have been crafted carefully, all the revelations are perfectly timed with weaving in different character perspectives and their investigations, showing a nicely judged use of flashbacks. The statute of limitations has been used immaculately with deeper and more satisfying frames, the film building up to a powerful twist that a lot of viewers won’t see coming.
The narrative and main characters are quite conclusive with dramatic and emotional weight. As a débutante, Jung holds viewers’ nerves and keeps the stress construction on a high level throughout the film minutes also it makes us sympathize with each and every character. Though the film has a distinct lack of action or violence, it’s far more gripping than many other outings which substitute pointless set pieces for substance. Great performances from the leads also help, in particular the excellent Uhm Jung Hwa, as does the general lack of melodrama and pointless tears, the film coming to a rewarding and mature yet quiet conclusion that hits hard and true. “Montage” ultimately translates itself into a surprising and different kind of thriller which keeps itself apart from recent clichéd thrillers. It perfectly delivers 120 minutes of enthralling and moving cinema.
Fine, jazzy, Japanese yakuza crime drama from 1967 and as cool as it gets. Starring, Jo Shishido (Branded to Kill and Youth of the Beast) Tatsuya Fuji (In the Realm of the Senses and Empire of Passion) and one of the first films directed by, Yasuhari Hasebe (Female Prisoner 701 Scorpion – Grudge Song and the Stray Cat series) who is considered the creator of the violent pink sub genre. Some pedigree then and not a disappointment, with non-stop action and surely more bullets than I’ve ever seen (or heard!) for it must have taken about 20 to 50 for each death. Performances are excellent all round, direction tight and confident with splendidly stylish photography. Low key jazz score helps maintain the atmosphere and this would be a great introduction to the world of Japanese 60s crime movies.
Jô Shishido stars as Kuroda and does a terrific job playing the hitman. You can see he cares about his life and that of his brothers and he’s sick and tired of doing the bidding of the evil Akazawa (Takashi Kanda). When their bar is trashed by Akazawa’s men, they decide to hit back and fast by intimidating the owners of local establishments ‘protected’ by Akazawa to use them for protection instead. Kuroda knows it won’t work out well for either his family of Awakaza’s gang but he’s determined to be the smarter of the two and survive as long as he can. What makes matters worse is that his best friend Shirasaka (Hideaki Nitani) is high-up within Akazawa’s gang and with this declaration of war, the friendship is now over as they become enemies.
MASSACRE GUN is an artful movie, from the way it’s produced and shot to the performances and score. Between the gang-on-gang warfare, scenes of tranquility remind the viewer how beautiful life is. The relaxing sounds of blues songs sung and played on the piano in the brothers’ The Rainbow Bar, with Saburo gently tapping away the drums, is quite soothing and is a stark contrast to the daily brawl the brothers are involved in. When the action kicks off, it does so in style though with bowling balls on toes, a boat ambush and highway fire fight. It’s quite a visual movie in the way its presented, with its striking camera angles and scenes subtly oozing charisma, and feels rather Western in style but with Japanese influences.
Arrow Video have released a Limited Edition Blu-Ray of MASSACRE GUN which is limited to 3000 copies available as dual format alongside DVD with a new, 17 minutes interview with Jô Shishido, an interview with critic Tony Ryans, original theatrical trailer and image gallery as special features. The release also features reversible sleeve artwork featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian McEwan and a collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Japanese cinema expert, Jasper Sharp. The Blu-Ray transfer is really crisp and clear, as is the Japanese audio with newly translated English subtitles.