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Archive for August, 2011

Lo Tung and his friend Malted Candy, pedicab drivers working the streets of Macao, have both fallen in love. The problem is that both their objects of affection – one a baker, the other a prostitute – are working under cruel and lecherous bosses. Somehow, the pair must find a way to win the ladies’ hearts and free them from their unpleasant jobs.

One of Sammo Hung’s best movies and considered by many to be his masterpiece, it starts out as a comedy, moves into romance before entering heroic bloodshed territory by the time the end credits roll. The plot could have been made tighter but it doesn’t matter when you’ve got a good balance of humour and drama including a funny nod to Star Wars when Sammo has a flourescent light tube fight. However, the mood changes dramatically to the dark side in the 2nd half as Sammo is out for revenge when his friend and his new bride are slaughtered. The fight choreography throughout the movie are outstanding. Even though Sammo may never leave the shadow of his countryman Jackie Chan, he is definitely just as inventive and nimble for a large man in his fights. The fast and furious stick fight between Sammo and Lau Kar Leung is a model of dazzling choreography and sharp, superb direction, and easily one of the best ever of its type.

A seemless and utterly compelling blend of first-class martial arts comedy and truly breathtaking violence, “Pedicab Driver” showcases the master of Hong Kong action at his awesome, bloody best.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The movie that gave 80’s Hong Kong action heroine Cynthia Khan her debut. A violent Japanese couple are responsible for the death of a policeman in Tokyo. His partner vows revenge and tracks them down to Hong Kong where mayhem ensues on the streets. A rookie female cop is assigned to help the Japanese officer to capture the deadly pair.

The action which is typical of the HK action genre is fast, bloody, and brutal. Cynthia Khan and Michicko Nishiwaki are superb and, in addition to being very easy on the eyes, display some great kicks and punches in their fight scenes. The plot is textbook stuff focusing mainly on the 80’s favourite revenge storyline, which only acts to give the cast an excuse to kill and chase each other. Many of the fight sequences are powerful and realistic, and there is a good balance between cinematic choreography and outright simple bloodshed. By the end it’s clear that anyone could die at any moment: something you’ll rarely see in a Western movie (outside the horror genre, at least). A superb movie that no HK action fan should miss.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Siblings Kwanny & Chung are left in charge of their father’s empire after he is assassinated by rival Chau Yung. After a series of tit-for-tat killings and a bloody massacre at Kwanny’s wedding, she is left as the sole heiress to her late father’s business. However, this means that she must now deal with an ambitious and ruthless family member who orchestrated the massacre and is planning to take over the business for himself.

This is the movie which features the iconic moment when Cynthia Khan in her bloodstained wedding dress grabs a machine gun and starts mowing down the villains like the bad ass chick that she is! Apart from a couple of exciting scenes for the action fan, this movie has a lot of boring screentime in the 1st half when you’re just twiddling your thumbs waiting for something to happen. Thankfully during the 2nd half the action really kicks in. It’s fairly standard stuff mainly consisting of gunplay. There’s also a welcome bit of hand-to-hand combat in the climatic showdown courtesy of Cynthia Khan, Billy Chow and a Japanese businessman and his blonde henchwoman. It’s certainly not Cynthia’s best movie but there’s enough here to satisfy any HK action fan.

No trailer but here’s the wedding massacre scene from the movie

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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The first ITLOD movie. The Vietnam war: A group of men pledge eternal loyalty to each other. The present day: one of them is being extradited from Tokyo to Hong Kong, and a hijack attempt, planned by his blood brothers to rescue him, is foiled by Yeung, Sanada and Wong, who thus find themselves the target for vengeance by the remaining fanatics. They blow up Sanada’s wife and child, kidnap Wong and use him as a lure for Yeung.

80’s Hong Kong action classic featuring a young Michelle Yeoh before her first retirement. It has larger-than-life heroes and villains, iconic screen personalities in Michelle Yeoh and Hiroyuki Sanada and explosive and fast-paced fighting, gunplay and car stunts delivered with all the skill and daring of Hong Kong’s ’80s-era stunt professionals whom fans and filmmakers the world over have come to admire. A typical over-the-top, “nothing succeeds like excess” HK action thriller that works from the first scene to the last. Michelle Yeoh is on top of her game here, dishing out pain to the bad guys. For fans of fighting females or just out-and-out brawling, this is an absolute must-see.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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High octane kung fu action all the way in this impressive HK movie. The pacing is superb. You watch action films for action – and director Yuen Woo-ping keeps the movie going at a breathless pace with a fight or chase almost every five minutes. It’s inventive and brutal stuff. The story might not be anything special-a witness to a crime is hunted by both the police and some gangsters-but with blistering chop-socky and dangerous stunts from the opening frames to the end credits, those who enjoy Hong Kong mayhem will be in heaven when they watch this.

Cynthia Khan who is absolutely amazing gives as good as she gets in the action scenes. She’s easy on the eye, can act and fights as well as any man. One of the many highlights featuring her is a scrap on a moving ambulance. Donnie Yen also gets to shine in the action department with several incredible set pieces.

This movie has a take-no-prisoners, anything-goes attitude that is unique to Hong Kong action cinema. I loved it and highly recommend it to action fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Gachi Boi (2010)

With shades of “Memento” fused with some comedy, Gachi Boi is an underrated feel-good movie that will leave you with a smile as the end credits roll. The plot is about a bright, intelligent student Igarashi who joins his local uni’s wrestling team. Trouble is, he has a big problem. An accident on his bike has left him brain damaged meaning he can’t recall anything he’s done over the past day when he wakes up the next morning. The only way he can recall the previous day is by writing down notes and taking photos for himself to find in the morning.

This movie though it may be about amateur wrestling WWE style is poignant and heartbreaking at times. You feel so sorry for Igarashi and his condition. I couldn’t imagine it myself – waking up ever morning and not recalling what happened the previous day. You can see the pain etched on his team mates’ faces and especially his little sister as he makes mistakes and has to consult his notebook to remember things. The cast are great in their roles and the wrestling matchups are filmed very well. The final tag-team match against the Coelancaths is really exciting.

Overall this movie is a fantastic human drama with a good mix of comedy and emotion. Those that like underdog sports movies will definitely love it.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City is set in 2025. Zebraman is captured and put in a giant centrifuge splitting him to 2 seperate entities, meanwhile evil forces have taken over Tokyo and turned it into Zebra City, featuring their own Zebra laws and everything. Basically, there’s a daily 5-minute window where all crime is justified and you cannot be prosecuted for killing, raping and doing other nasty things. Zebra City thrives, but Zebraman is slowly regaining memory of his former duties. If that sounds a little weird and all, don’t worry, it’s supposed to.

Story-wise it’s a pretty straight-forward sequel, firmly set in the same realm as the first movie and expanding on the original story. But the feel of Zebraman 2 is completely different. Sho Aikawa has returned from the first movie featuring bleached hair for the occasion. He’s a great actor who appears a lot in Miike’s movies with a rare talent to bring humour to a straight-faced performance. It’s a unique combination that makes him quite perfect for his role. Naka Riisa does a pretty good job of opposing Zebraman as the Zebra Queen, bringing a lot of attitude and power to the table. The songs she sings are quite catchy too. They both hold up extremely well amongst all the silliness.

Zebraman 2 is not all that easy to recommend. Depending on what you expect or demand from a sequel, it’s either a missed opportunity or a definite improvement over the first movie. It’s doesn’t follow the same path as the first Zebraman so people expecting to return to the same atmosphere will be a little disappointed. I still found it very amusing.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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A group of fighters are selected, via competition, to go to Hollywood for a project… or that’s what they believe. In fact, after winning they are drugged and kidnapped, and forced to fight for their lives in a contest staged for the benefit of some extremely wealthy gamblers.

Bangkok Knockout is an average movie by most standards – i.e. the story isn’t that good and some of the acting is terrible. But when you watch this kind of movie – you don’t really care about that. It’s the action you’ve come to watch and in BKO it has some of the most extraordinary action scenes ever filmed. The cast are mostly stuntmen and fighters, and the movie showcases a range of different styles and techniques going head to head. The level of physical virtuosity on display is amazing and the scenes are brutal – fights are full contact and stunts are outrageously dangerous.

For lovers of action cinema it’s a must-see. Everybody else will probably hate it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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This comedy movie the story of two hoods forced to take on paid work when they run out of money for booze, who end up being drawn into the spiderweb of the yakuza.

Takashi Miike is known for his yakuza movies, and Osaka Tough Guys is no exception, though they are represented in a deprecating, mocking, at times ridiculous manner. The story comes directly from the pages of a manga and almost everything about it is over the top. Although there is a genuine story-line, the movie is interspliced with crazily cartoonish, literally cartoonish, vignettes unlike anything one is likely to find in a ‘real’ movie

Many of the scenes are random and never explained, the opening scene being one of them, but if you resist the urge to require that everything make sense in a movie, you can sit back and laugh. I was laughing out loud pretty much from the time the movie opened to the time credits rolled. If you enjoyed Miike’s Happiness of the Katakuris, you’ll probably enjoy this movie as well.

It’s crude, but there is none of the cringe-worthy violence and torture scenes that make Audition difficult to watch. Don’t watch if you can’t tolerate vomit, molestation and manties, otherwise I recommend this movie to any Miike fan.

No trailer but a clip from the movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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This horror generally follows similar traits to other Asian curse movies. The plot is about horrific “suicides” of girls at a school in a Korean village, whilst bringing back memories of dark chapters in the communities past.

As is the norm for Korean movies, the movie is set in beautiful scenery whilst the direction and acting is surprisingly great also taking in the age of a number of the actors.

On the other hand, the movie’s main weaknesses are two fold. The story meanders and doesn’t seem coherent, whilst the movie also takes too much from others in the genre. At points it appeared to go for frights above all else, trying to outdo it peers, but really its the storyline that is usually the most important point of Asian horror movies. Regardless, original it really isn’t, but its still not bad. I enjoyed it, but I still wouldn’t push anyone to go watch it. A good viewing but no classic.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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This brutal Korean action thriller is a slick and stylish movie with shades of Taken about it. So-Mi Jeong is a little girl who lives across the hall from a reclusive ex-special forces agent called Cha Tae-Sik who owns a pawnshop. Neglected by her junkie mother she attaches herself to the man as the only sympathetic adult in her life. Cha is a sombre person scarred by the past when his pregnant wife is killed. When So-Mi is kidnapped and forced into child-labour and organ harvesting after her mother steals some drugs, Cha uses his skills and sets out on a bloody mission to free his only friend.

There is nothing we haven’t seen before plot wise and it’s not crammed with wall-to-wall action. What makes The Man From Nowhere work is its phenomenal pacing and exceptional acting from most of the cast. In the beginning you know next to nothing about Cha Tae-Sik but by the end of the movie a lot comes clear about why he acts the way he does. The real action takes awhile to hit but when it hits it really delivers. This was some of the most realistic and brutal action I’ve ever seen from Korea. A very impressive knife fight towards the end of the movie is worth your patience.

The acting between the 2 lead characters was amazingly touching. You really cared about these characters which gave strength to this movie. By the end you will almost be in tears. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves good revenge flicks. You won’t be disappointed!

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Sawako Decides (2010)

Sawako leaves behind her humiliating job testing new toys in Tokyo to move back to her rural hometown. Her father is ill and his business packing freshwater clams is on hard times. But the elderly female workforce resents her, her hopeless boyfriend tracks her down, and Sawako begins to despair of ever making sense of her life.

This comedy drama is a slow burner – the comedy doesn’t hit you from the start. It takes it’s time to develop the characters and situations with several plotlines running throughout the movie. The movie rests on the lead female character and in Hikari Mitsushima as Sawako she does brilliantly. I’ve been a big fan of hers since I saw ‘Love Exposure’ 2 years ago. She plays the downtrodden and defeated Sawako with grace and conviction. It isn’t easy to make such a depressed character not depressing on film, but we are engaged with Sawako and her life, even if she isn’t. Her relationship with the young and very cute Taeko, her boyfriend’s daughter from another marriage, an important part of the plot, was also really enjoyable to watch unfold. I loved Hikari’s performance as the loser coming to terms with what she is and instead of crying over the fact that she’s only an average woman she just gets on with her life. Overall I loved this Japanese comedy drama very much – it’s funny and near the end becomes a touching movie. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Cold Fish (2010)

Sion Sono’s latest movie – (very) loosely based on actual events, confirms the director as being one of the most inventive currently working in cinema today. This bleak tale of a repressed, inhibited tropical fish store owner Mr. Shamoto, who when coerced into a business partnership by fellow tropical fish vendor Mr. Murata, eventually leads him to violence and serial murder.

This movie is impossible to fit into any neat category. Its part horror, part black comedy (its extremely funny at times), part serial killer movie, with a huge dollop of allegory about business and Japanese society. And its also fantastic – brilliant acting and direction keeps you hooked as the movie gets gorier and gorier. The last 30 mins is a carnage of blood! The entire cast is compelling as a group of seemingly ordinary people who are teetering on either side of major personality disorders. And its not always clear who the real psychopaths are. Only the fish seem normal.

This certainly isn’t a movie for everyone. But if you enjoy a black comedy and have a strong stomach for some very realistic looking gore, then this will certainly keep you distracted for its 140 minutes or so. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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I’m sure in it’s time the 2nd KR movie was fantastic for Japanese families watching it but now it looks horribly dated and rather camp but it’s still a good nostalgic movie to have a look. The story revolves around a scientist that’s developed a gravity machine called the GX Device and it’s only time before the nefarious Shocker organisation led by Dr Death (who looks like Dracula with his black cape) and his skeleton costumed/lucha libre masked goons try to steal the equation for the machine but luckily for the scientist, Kamen Rider 1 and 2 come to his rescue. What follows is a series of skirmishes between the 2 heroes and Shocker’s weird and wonderful creations. This movie only lasts for 32 mins so the action comes thick and fast. The actors portraying the 2 Riders do a great job in their role. For those that want to see the origins of the modern KR by all means take a look at these early movies but I’m sure you’ll be disappointed. It’s true that they’re not as slick as the KR movies that’s released these days but it’s great campy fun for everybody to enjoy.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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19 year old Japanese teen karate champion Rina Takeda is back in another great martial arts movie and this time she’s joined by another young karate expert – 14 year old Hina Tobimatsu.

Rina’s character Ayaka is on a revenge mission after finding her missing younger sister who was kidnapped and brainwashed by a mysterious organisation whose leader killed their father 10 years previously.

This movie is a slight improvement on Rina’s debut High Kick Girl, still think though she deserves a better movie to showcase her talents properly. The fight scenes are fantastic with thankfully the slo-mo repeats that followed each strike on an opponent by Rina in HKG has disappeared making each fight flow much better. Each fight is also no holds barred and more brutal involving hard kicks to the head. Rina’s acting has also improved this time round giving a charismatic and likeable performance in her role.

Karate Girl won’t propel Rina into the A-list of action stars just yet but it’s only a matter of time before something comes up for her. Rina’s fans will definitely enjoy this basic, entertaining and enjoyable karate movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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