Archive for the ‘Action’ Category


Chang Mo-kei’s parents are the owners of a pair of magical swords and some clans are desperate to get their hands on them. In the process of this struggle, they are forced to commit suicide by rival clan leaders and young Chang Mo-kei is given the Jinx Palm curse which prevents him from being able to practice martial arts. He is taken in by the Wu-Tang clan leader but a young rival manages to cast him out. He is released of his curse by a crazed monk he comes across who is strapped into a rock and teaches him the Great Solar Stance. Chang Mo-kei vows to take revenge on the clan leaders responsible for the death of his parents. Two rival clan sects are also fighting each other for ownership of the 2 magic swords and Chang Mo-kei also sets out to sort this feud out not realizing that it is a ruse by the government led by a woman who looks very much like his dead mother. The government wants to reduce the amount of power that the martial arts clans have. Will Chang Mo-kei be able to deal with everything on his own?

This martial arts fantasy epic which is packed full of spectacular action sequences was supposed to be the first of a 2-part movie series but unfortunately due to it being a flop the 2nd movie was cancelled which is a big shame as I really enjoyed it. You’d think with such a distinguished cast which included Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Chingmy Yau, Richard Ng and Sharla Cheung, this movie should have been a runaway success so I’m not really sure why that wasn’t the case? It leaves the story dangling on a bit of a cliffhanger at the climax of the movie. The story has been adapted from a long running TV series called Dragon Sword & Heaven Sabre and trying to cram around 60 hours of the TV series plot into 90 mins was always going to be a struggle for the scriptwriter. There are apparently 2 Shaw Brothers movies from the 60’s (not sure of the movie’s titles) that more or less follows the plot of this movie and continues with what would taken place in the proposed sequel.

kung fu cult master screenshot

I think part of the reason why this movie divides so many martial arts fans and didn’t do too well is because of it’s overly complicated plot but thankfully this is balanced out by the wildly choreographed fight sequences which was directed by Sammo Hung. Don’t expect any standard kung-fu antics here as there is a lot of wire involved. It’s fast and frenetic stuff but always great as expected by Sammo. It will take a viewer with a lot of concentration to understand the plot completely from start to finish. I’m sure to many it will make no sense at all but don’t worry because the numerous action sequences that litter the movie will take your mind off the baffling plot. You never have enough time to digest what is going on before another fight or skirmish happens. All the famous martial arts schools you may have heard about is featured in this movie plus some fictional ones thrown in such as the Ming Sect which is depicted as being evil and led by magical people with OTT names as Green Bat (a vampire) and Gold Lion. I’m quite amazed at the rather offensive dialogue that I come across in some Asian movies. In this movie you have 2 cowardly comic characters who disguise themselves as Red Cross workers and jokingly say they are going to rape a woman. I’m not sure how joking about a serious offence as rape can be considered funny.

Jet Li is rather good in the leading role and he is given the very gorgeous Chingmy Yau as his partner in crime and love interest. Always pleasing on the eye, she looks fabulous in her costume but so does Sharla Cheung who pops up in 2 roles in this movie. First as the mother of Jet Li’s character when he’s a child and then as the government official behind the clans fighting each other. Sammo and Richard Ng don’t have that big of a part in this movie.

Despite the convoluted plot, I loved this fantasy movie and thought it was a lot of fun. If you’re into a movie with fast and furious action set-pieces and not that bothered if the plot goes above your head then you may perhaps enjoy this movie. Give it a go and see what you think.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Journey to the west

In a small village by a river, a mysterious large demon creature attacks the father of a young child which is then killed by a fake Taoist priest. The creature is revealed to be a manta ray and is proclaimed dead by the priest. A demon hunter named Sanzang appears on the scene warning that it is not the real demon that attacked. His pleas are ignored and he is captured and tied up in ropes high above the river. The demon creature comes back and kills a number of villagers but thankfully Sanzang who is able to release himself manages to beach the creature which turns into a man. Sanzang begins a ritual by using a book of nursery rhymes and singing to the man. The man becomes agitated and attacks Sanzang. Another demon hunter, a female warrior named Duan enters, capturing the man inside a blanket and turning him into a puppet. Sanzang isn’t happy at being upstaged by Duan and complains to his master who tells him that his way of trying to pacify the demon and reforming them is good. He is ordered to try and tame the Monkey King demon who has been trapped by Buddha. During his travels he becomes entangled again with Duan after battling a pig demon in a restaurant. After days of travelling he finally finds the Monkey King but not before being captured by Duan’s gang, rejecting her advances and battling the injured pig demon again. Will Sanzang be able to tame the Monkey King or does the demon have a trick or two up his sleeve?

Those of a certain age in the UK will remember a TV programme during the late 70’s/early 80’s called Monkey. It was a dubbed version of a Japanese programme based on the Chinese novel Journey To The West. This movie isn’t a new version of that story but rather a prequel of how the main characters got together. It’s directed by Hong Kong comedy legend Stephen Chow who it seems now is content to be behind the cameras rather than in front of them. Perhaps with his movie CJ7 not being as successful as he thought it might be maybe he doesn’t want to act again? Then again I’ve heard that he has some politicial ambitions so that could be the reason for his scaling down of movie activities? Chow has covered Journey To The West before in the 2-part comedy movie A Chinese Odyssey. His trademark OTT action, romance and humour is prevalent throughout this movie – he might not appear on screen but everything from the comedy to the great action scenes is quintessentially Stephen Chow. The lead character of Sanzang would have been ideal role for him. The Journey To The West story has been done many times over the years but Chow somehow manages to make it feel fresh even though it does get bogged down in the middle section when it focuses more on Duan trying to seduce Sanzang which gets incredibly ridiculous and boring too.


There’s a memorable start to the movie with a fantastic and imaginative choreographed attack on a small village by a water demon which is really exciting to watch as Sanzang tries to rescue a young girl from being devoured by the demon. It does go on for a little bit too long but it doesn’t half hook you into the story. The scene leads you to believe that the danger has been eliminated by a fake priest when a manta ray is killed so when the real demon does appear it’s more of a surprise to the viewer. The same technique of showing red herrings to the viewer is used again in the instance of the pig demon and the Monkey King. A lot of symbolism is used in the movie which is lost on myself as I don’t know a lot about Chinese mythology. It probably makes a lot of sense to Chinese people but to Westerners they won’t have a clue what they’re on about. There are a couple of excellently staged action scenes which culminates with a battle between The Monkey King and Buddha after the Monkey King tricks Sanzang into freeing him from the cave in which he’s been imprisoned for 500 years and he’s not too happy about it. Production values for the movie is quite high with plenty of money having been thrown at it as the CGI effects is very good. It matches what you might see in a Hollywood movie. It’s only right at the very end the viewer sees characters they recognise as Sanzang becomes Tripitaka the monk and he along with Monkey, Piggsy and Sandy (3 ex-demons seeking enlightenment) begin their journey to the West to recover some sacred texts for Buddha. Perhaps Stephen Chow will continue the story in a future movie?

It’s up to Wen Zhang to carry the movie as it’s leading character Sanzang and he does extremely well. Sanzang makes for an instantly likeable character with his vulnerabilities. Zhang is able to do comedy and action effortlessly, exactly like Chow used to do. I wonder if Chow showed Zhang how to play Sanzang as he would have done it? For Sanzang’s female foil, Chow employed the beautiful Shu Qi as the aggressive demon hunter Duan. Both Zhang and Qi bounce off each other so they’re a good combination together. It’s very easy to believe that Duan is an effective demon hunter with the way she dispatches them violently. She tries to get Sanzang to love her but he’s so devoted to being a monk he cannot reciprocate her feelings which leads to all kinds of troubles in their relationship. Huang Bo is superb and makes for an engaging villain as the sly Monkey King.

Overall, this was an excellent action comedy with a lot to enjoy for Stephen Chow fans. He can still churn out a good movie even though he might not be acting in it and the mix of action, drama and comedy is perfect. I only hope Chow fans like myself won’t have to wait so long for his next project and that he can be coaxed to actually appear on screen next time. We wait with baited breath! Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Parasyte Part 1 (2014)


One night, parasitic alien organisms come to Earth and begin taking over human beings by entering their bodies through the ears and then controlling their brains. Teenager Shinichi Izumi lives at home with his single mother. One of the parasites make their way to Shinichi’s home but find their usual entrance to the human body blocked as Shinichi has fallen asleep listening to music with earphones. On Shinichi waking up unexpectedly, the alien burrows it’s way inside his right hand instead. He prevents the alien from reaching his brain by applying a tourniquet to his arm. The next day at his room desk a pair of eyes starts appearing on Shinichi’s hand. He tries to extract it but it only angers the alien which totally emerges from the hand to give Shinichi the fright of his life. The alien which is given the name ‘Righty’ by Shinichi appears to the teenager as a small entity embedded in his hand with a single and a mouth that talks. Unlike his fellow aliens which have begun devouring humans for food, ‘Righty’ is content in having a peaceful relationship with his host. Shinichi is content not to interfere with the other aliens until his own mother is taken over and then things become personal for him. The alien threat has even infiltrated his high school with his science teacher now an alien host. But what can one individual do against a hoard of ferocious alien hosts?

This is the big screen adaptation of the manga ‘Kiseiju’. There has literally been dozens of alien invasion movies done over the years but this one even though the plot may sound unoriginal is still unique in its own little way. You may be tempted to think when you see the trailer that this could be a comedy or a children’s movie of some sort but believe me, this is no family friendly tale of a symbiotic relationship between a teenage boy and his alien controlled hand. At times the movie gets extremely dark and there’s plenty of gory scenes throughout. After the initial stealth takeover by the parasites, the first hour of the movie concentrates on Shinichi’s relationship with his new alien host, his would-be girlfriend Satomi and his mother. Shinichi’s right hand can contort and twist at will which shocks the teenager, it almost reminds me of the Stretch Armstrong toy. The alien’s intentions are not made clear to the viewer in this movie though you may have guessed what it is. It’s obvious from the start they’re hostile but for now they are quietly taking over key personnel such as a slimy politician and when the time is right their invasion plans will come to fruition (the filmmakers have made sure this scenario takes place in Part 2). Not all of the aliens though are focused on killing/eating humans. Shinichi’s female biology teacher Ryoko Tamiya, herself an alien host is fascinated by the relationship between the pair and rather than wanting them killed she wants them observed instead although her fellow aliens are not quite so keen on the idea. Ryoko is seen to be pregnant but I’m not entirely sure if it’s one of the aliens that has impregnated her or not?

Parasyte part 1 screenshot

You might think this movie is full of action and gore. Yes, there are some gruesome attacks by the aliens throughout the movie which includes a bloodbath near the end at Shinichi’s school when the corridors are littered with bodies but it does slow down considerably until the last 30 mins. The emotional strand of the story comes down to Shinichi’s decision to kill somebody very close to him. Shinichi is quite happy to be passive about the invasion until his caring mother unfortunately gets taken over when she comes to inspect a wounded alien creature. He realises that the mother he knew no longer exists and it’s heartbreaking to see him going on the offensive and fighting her until he manages to eventually kill the alien host. This act places a heavy burden on Shinichi’s mind and make him even more determined to destroy the aliens. The CG effects showing the true face of the alien hosts emerging is incredible – the head splits open into 4 and what comes out is something with a large mouth filled with eyes and teeth which can consume human beings in one bite. They can also produce various sharp bladed weapons when their heads open wide as well. It is said that some fans of the manga are not best pleased with the changes made as Shinichi’s father is alive and well in the manga but in the movie he’s dead. I think fans have to realise that movie adaptations of a manga, novel, game or anime will always have some minor changes made by the studios.

Shota Sometani excels in his role as Shinichi and it’s nice to see the filmmakers bypassing the usual good looking male idol actors for such a blockbuster movie and casting somebody ‘normal’ instead. So far he has only acted in indie productions so this is probably his biggest movie yet. He gives a very good account of himself in this movie even though he is seen mainly talking to his alien hand and manages to make his character endearing to the viewer. Shota is apparently even learning English quickly in the hope that if Hollywood will eventually film the English version they might cast him for the lead role. That looks highly unlikely but fair play to him for making the effort. His co-star in the reliable Ai Hashimoto is as good as ever as Shinichi’s friend Satomi. I also liked Eri Fukatsu as Ryoko in the movie too. Kazuki Kitamura and Tadanobu Asano are only seen briefly though I guess their parts will be expanded more in the next movie.

It’s plain to see that this movie is more or less a setup to what takes place in Part 2 when the fate of the planet will be up for grabs. The trailer for Part 2 right at the very end of the credits looks amazing and it features Shinichi and Satomi becoming very close together plus the teacher Ryoko gives birth to her child. I’m sad that I will not be in Tokyo to see this movie when it is set to be released in May 2015

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie despite a couple of scenes dragging. It’s got an interesting alien invasion story with a fair few scenes of bloodshed which are rather frightening. The alien CG effects are fantastic. Coupled with great performances from a solid cast, this is one movie you don’t want to miss out on. I can’t wait to see Part 2. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Charlie Chan (not that Charlie Chan!) is a detective that is charged with protecting the Koran that is being shown at a museum. There are however people that are interested in stealing this precious artifact such as a top fighter named Ma Ju-Lung and a skilled thief called Cho with his daughter. Chan has to keep one step ahead of the two if he wants to prevent the Koran from being stolen. To complicate matters is the fact that Cho’s other beautiful daughter has fallen for Chan and her loyalty become divided. Before the trio square off against each other, they must join forces against a greater threat to their plans. Who will eventually come out on top?

During the late 80’s and early 90’s. Andy Lau starred in a number of movies – some were memorable, others were not and faded into obscurity. This movie isn’t that well known to Western fans but that’s not to say this movie is bad because it isn’t. It’s a fun action heist/comedy caper which is very entertaining. The Westernised title is rubbish to begin with as it’s not the three people teaming up to take on the world, it should be more like Three Against Each Other which is more in line with the plot. I think the proper English translation is something like Dragon Trio Fight Over Treasure. I wouldn’t say the movie is one of Lau’s best at all but there’s more than enough to entertain his fans over 90 mins. Lau is backed by a great cast such as the beautiful Rosamund Kwan, Teddy Robin and martial artist Tsui Siu Keung.

Three-Against-the-World screenshot

I believe the lavish sets and costumes for this movie were rehashed from when Jackie Chan was filming Miracles: The Canton Godfather so production values are quite high. This isn’t an all-action martial arts spectacular although the last 15 or so mins has many impressive set pieces. The fight choreography is by Yuen Wah so at least the viewer will know that his standards are usually pretty good. The story is light in tone and although it isn’t a laugh-out-loud movie there are plenty of amusing moments to make the viewer chuckle. Andy Lau also gets to take part in a bizarre piano duet with his co-star Teddy Robin half way through the movie although I’m sure the lyrics have been mistranslated as they sound stupid. It doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to showcase Lau’s talent as a singer. Double crosses and even triple crosses is the order of the day as each party tries to get the upper hand in trying to get the Koran although most times Charlie Chan has a trick up his sleeve to foil the would-be thieves. It does get a little bit ridiculous and tedious during the second half of the movie as a number of fake Korans are bandied around the characters as red herrings so you don’t have a clue who has the real one. Where the characters have gotten their hands on these fake Korans is never explained? Are they being sold at a local market and anybody can buy them??

Andy Lau is great as Charlie Chan who as well as being likeable is a bit of a charming rogue with the ladies. Although Lau isn’t what people would call a martial artist he does get a chance to show the limited skills he has as a fighter. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rosamund Kwan and I enjoyed seeing her in this movie. She’s absent for the majority of the first half although you get glimpses of her. It’s in the second half she comes to the fore and takes more of an active role in the storyline. Teddy Robin surprises everybody as the character Cho during the climax. Teddy Robin isn’t that tall (not sure if you can call him a midget?) but when you see him take on Andy Lau and Tsui Siu Keung and actually gain the upper hand against the pair it’s incredible to see. The only mistake the filmmakers do is that Teddy Robin’s stunt double is noticeably taller than him and you will notice the height difference during the fight!! I got the impression that the whole cast had a ball whilst filming this movie and it shows in their performances.

Three Against The World might not be Andy Lau’s crowning glory in his glittering movie career but if you’re one of his fans you should not pass this opportunity up of watching this movie. The mix of comedy and martial arts works well and I found it a lot of fun.

No trailer but here’s an action scene from the movie

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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In a small rural village, a man (Uncle Fung) who banishes demons for a living and uses old Taoist methods lives there with his beautiful niece. A dead young girl in the village becomes a zombie and it is only through considerable effort she is stopped as even a bullet in the leg does not do anything to halt her. It is found she has been injected with a drug that makes her seem invincible. The man along with his niece heads to Hong Kong to find out who is supplying the drugs. He teams up with 2 police detectives who are only too keen to help him out as both have taken a shine to his niece. They discover that the zombie girl was in fact a drugs mule and soon the trail leads them to a powerful Japanese evil witch who is behind the drugs and using dead people as drugs couriers. Can they defeat the witch who has an endless supply of magical spells at her disposal?

Wrongly advertised in some quarters as the fifth installment of the Mr Vampire series, this movie is hugely exciting and entertaining to watch. The combination of police drama, superb action set-pieces and ghost hunting along with a fast frenetic pace employed by director Stephen Tung help make this movie one of the best HK fantasy actioners from the early 90’s. It is a highly imaginative movie which uses Chinese folklore tales to good effect. Unlike the Mr Vampire series which has traditional hopping vampires and is set in the past, this movie has a contemporary setting and uses zombies instead and one evil badass Japanese witch. Although some elements of the movie does have some humour (mostly involving a bumbling cop helping Uncle Fung), the plot is mostly serious in tone. An aspect of the story can also be taken as the old vs the new with Uncle Fung’s traditional methods coming up against the present in which Fung isn’t too impressed with modern day society especially with equipment such as fax machines etc.

The plot builds up very nicely and during the stunning climax the evil witch goes toe to toe in a long spell casting contest with Uncle Fung in a fabulous fun-filled finale on top of a building. It does get a little bit far-fetched as she is set on fire and thrown down a lift shaft but she comes back up as a flaming corpse to chase the heroes around a room by using sound to track them down as her eyes have been burnt so she can no longer see. It culminates in a satisfying ending to the movie.

magiccop screenshot

Lam Ching-ying takes the leading role as Uncle Fung. He is brilliant in this movie especially in his fight scenes when he takes on a couple of young and buff fighters in Frankie Chan and Billy Chow before taking on Michiko Nishiwaki. Lam also choreographed the slick fight scenes and instead of concentrating on long scraps he keeps them short and sweet. Seeing him kick ass on a bunch of bodybuilders in a gym is superb. It’s a shame that Western fans only recognise him for doing these kind of roles as he was unfortunately typecast as a monk in many movies. Wilson Lam plays Officer Lam who is highly skeptical of Fung’s Taoist skills and is a bit of a ladies man. Lam and Fung clash as Lam has his eye on Fung’s beautiful niece and he is very protective of her. Fung doesn’t take too kindly to the way that Lam treats his female colleagues (i.e slapping their arses) but gradually the pair set their differences aside to crack the case. Wong Mei-Wa is only in this movie to look beautiful and act in peril as Fung’s niece. Michiko Nishiwaki is superb as the leader of the drugs gang – a particularly nasty witch who seems to molest her pet white cat when she is doing some of her evil spells. Those that don’t want to see a visibly distressed cat should look away from these scenes.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this wild and unpredictable movie with a wonderful performance by Lam Ching-ying. It is well worth checking out if you can get a hold of it. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The International Psychic Power Group are a secret society of people with special mind powers (called ESPY) which is funded by the United Nations. Their aim is to stop evil doers from threatening the peace on this planet. One evil group (Anti-ESPY) has already killed 4 delegates on a train in Switzerland who were on their way to broker a deal between the East and West as tensions are already high which could spill over into a war. The Baltonian (a fictional country) Prime Minister who is over in Japan for a conference with the Japanese PM is next to be killed by this group which is led by a super villain named Ulrov. The good guys recruit a racing driver named Miki who is showing extraordinary psychic abilities and his pet alsatian dog Caesar. These abilities helped Miki from having a crash in his racing car on the circuit track. Miki’s first assignment with his new colleagues Maria and Tamura is to help protect the Baltonian Prime Minister. Will the ESPY group manage to defeat their enemy and prevent WWIII from starting?

This is a cool Japanese cult movie which is part action, part espionage and part sci-fi movie all rolled in one with a teensy bit of exploitation thrown in as well. You could say that this movie is a precursor to the 80’s movie Scanners as it shares similar plot threads. There’s a James Bond movie feel to it as well as the plot goes jet setting over Europe and Japan and features a larger than life super villain who wants to rule the world. The main focus of this movie is not on the newcomer Miki (though it is for a little while) but on the lovers Maria and Tamura who can read each other’s minds perfectly. The psychics in this movie know when danger lurks and can warn one another. They can also use the power of their minds to hurl heavy objects against each other and even stop somebody from pulling the trigger on a gun. Some of the psychics can even use hypnosis and teleportation to their advantage. I’m not sure why director Jun Fukuda wanted to add some sleaze to proceedings when Maria is kidnapped by the bad guys. They lure her lover Tamura to their strip club somewhere in Istanbul, Turkey where he is locked into his seat and forced to watch Maria who is under hypnosis doing a sexy dance in her underwear. If that’s not enough a token foreign black bad guy comes in, rips off Maria’s top exposing her breasts and just when he’s about to kiss her Tamura uses his psychic abilities to tear the black guy’s tongue off!! The violence on display is quite strong as you see people exploding (quite literally!!!).

espy screenshot

The head of the Anti-ESPY group named Ulrov definitely comes from the Bond school of villainry as he hides in a large mansion full of traps for the unwary and has a grudge against mankind. He doesn’t care if WWIII breaks out. Miki’s past comes back to haunt him in the final third after he spends the middle section of the movie moping about after having to kill one of the bad guys and he feels guilty about it. His old childhood friend Julie has sided with the bad guys and wants him dead. She sets a trap for Tamura in his car with a bomb about to explode if he doesn’t get out in 10 mins. Any chance of escape for him looks doomed with the doors and windows locked. Even bullets don’t seem to work but just when you think Tamura is going to die he finds his mojo again (having lost some of his powers after being viciously beaten up earlier in the movie) and he teleports himself out of the vehicle seconds before it’s destroyed. The action scenes are handled pretty well especially the shootouts but I thought the destruction sequences using small models were probably the highlight for myself.

Fans of the Lone Wolf movies can look forward to seeing Tomisaburo Wakayama as Ulrov. He doesn’t cut down anybody with a sword in this movie and his final showdown with the ESPY team is rather short lived. For a character that was portrayed as being a very strong psychic, he’s taken down quite quickly. A far better and more interesting villain is Katsumusa Uchida as a ruthless assassin named Goro. He shows off his skills with a gun in the opening scene of the movie in which he murders 4 UN delegates on the fast moving train from a car by using his psychic abilities. On the good guys side Masao Kusakiri is rather wet as the new recruit Miki who prefers to be in the company of his dog Caesar. The role of the lead ass-kicker in the ESPY team tends to be Hiroshi Fujioka as Tamura. He’s the one that is seen dishing out punches to the bad guys and taking a licking at times as well. The eye candy of the movie is Kaoru Yumi as Maria. There’s something about Yumi that reminds me of Keiko Kitagawa. I did check in case she was a relation of some sort but apparently she isn’t. There are one or two other supporting characters such as the head of the ESPY team and an old Buddhist monk (an advisor to the team) who dies after using up the remainder of his psychic energy to save the team from being killed in an airplane crash after the pilots are hypnotised by Miki’s friend Julie. The trigger of the hypnosis is seeing the aurora borealis.

Overall, this was a fun spy movie with a difference. It has a good pace about it which never lets up so that the viewer won’t get bored. It’s a shame this movie isn’t easily available to Japanese movie fans in the West. I really enjoyed it. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Black Butler (2014)

Black Butler_Live_Action_Poster_001

After seeing the murder of her parents, Shiori Genpo sells her soul to a demon named Sebastian Michaelis who will help her to avenge their deaths. Shiori is a part of a secret force serving the Queen Of The West named The Queen’s Watchdog. They are responsible for stubbing out any criminal elements which are a threat to the Queen. As Shiori’s father ran his own toy company and only males are allowed to inherit his fortune, Shiori has disguised herself as her father’s illegitimate son, taken up the title of Earl and goes by the name of Kiyoharu. Both Kiyoharu and Sebastian have moved into the family’s sprawling estate and mansion which comes complete with a clumsy young maid and other personnel. Kiyoharu and Sebastian are investigating the mysterious mummification of several ambassadors. They narrow their search down to a night club which has organised a special event for certain people. Kiyoharu manages to wrangle herself an invitation to the event but finds her life may be in danger when she discovers what’s really going on.

This live-action adaptation of the popular manga/anime has had a mixed reception amongst fans. Most aren’t happy that the filmmakers haven’t stayed true to the original material. The manga and anime was set in Victorian England but in this movie the timeline has been moved forward to the year 2020 but the biggest gripe of all has been with the character of 12 year old boy Ciel Phantomhive who has been dropped in favour of a 17 year old girl (a descendant of the original Phantomhive family). There’s also a sort of a romantic angle going on between Kiyoharu and Sebastian. I’m guessing the reason for all the changes is to keep the story fresh instead of treading over old ground. Apart from hearing about the anime series, that’s about all I was aware about Black Butler until I watched this movie so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The movie kicks off with a good action sequence which sees Sebastian rescuing Kiyoharu from a human trafficking ring and dispatching all of the bad guys with a butter knife. The movie is fairly dark and involves a plot by an evil organisation to produce a new drug in the shape of a small marble. When the marble is broken and the vapour inside the bottle is inhaled by the person it makes blood comes out of every orifice before the body shrivels up and is mummified. There is an antidote by the evil organization which is only available to them. The movie is a bit of a stop start affair as there are far too many talkie bits just when you think that the movie is about to hit top gear. It hurts the flow of the movie but I guess the filmmakers were trying to drag the running time up to 2 hours. The pace of the movie does quicken near the end which sees Kiyoharu sacrifice herself when a case load of the deadly drug explodes and Sebastian rescues her with the antidote.


This movie marked the return of actor Hiro Mizushima (best known for being Kamen Rider Kabuto) who had been on hiatus since 2010. He takes the role of Sebastian and performs pretty well in the part of the demon butler especially during his action scenes which are exciting and imaginative. Ayame Goriki does better in this movie than the last one I saw her in (Gatchaman). The verdict is still out whether I consider her to be a good actress or not but I thought she did OK in Black Butler. There’s a weird fascination for Japanese women who enjoy seeing other females dressing up as men (the Takarazaka group for instance) so seeing Goriki disguising herself as a man with an eyepatch will no doubt excite some women even though I don’t think she makes for a convincing man (still looks like a girl to me even with the short hairstyle). That being said, Goriki has a certain charm about her and makes for nice eye candy. The character of Jin the clumsy maid had an unexpected twist to her story though you sorta knew that something was up with her. Near the climax it’s revealed that Jin’s clumsiness is all an act and she reveals her true purpose in the Genpo household. She’s been tasked with protecting the heir of the Genpo empire.  There’s another character whose true intention is hidden throughout most of the movie. Kiyoharu’s Aunt Hanae is supposed to be an ally for her and Sebastian until she betrays Kiyoharu and sides herself with the bad guys. It was quite predictable that was going to happen.

Overall, Black Butler was a decent movie though I wouldn’t say it’s anything special at all. I think it will suit those who have no knowledge of the franchise than hardcore fans. There’s a hint that a sequel might be on the cards seeing that the big boss of the evil organisation is still out there and probably plotting revenge on Kiyoharu and Sebastian.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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A teenage boy Akira who is a keen amateur astronomer finds out that planet Icarus has deviated from it’s normal orbit and is heading for a collision course with the Earth by looking through his telescope. Scientists though don’t believe him. One day he is kidnapped by men in black and taken to a secret institute called The Pearl Research where the people there do believe his story. Founded by a foreigner named Dr Pearl, the institute has built a powerful weapon (Super Destruction Beam Cannon) with the power of 1000 H-bombs that can destroy Icarus before it hits the Earth but they have one vital component missing – a special mineral for the lens. This mineral is found on an island in the Pacific. A team from the institute led by Dr Yamatone along with Akira and Dr Pearl’s granddaughter Emily head for the island and discover the lost city of Atlantis in the process. They are suddenly attacked by a gigantic drill shaped ship piloted by an alien named Nazu. He is the one behind the scheme of wanting Icarus to slam into the Earth as he doesn’t want to share the universe with any human beings. He will do anything to stop the Pearl Research team getting their hands on the mineral. But help is at hand for mankind from a hero has been asleep for 10,000 years at Atlantis and is waiting for the right moment to save the Earth and it’s people.

I’m sure the majority out there are aware of Japanese superheroes such as Ultraman, Kamen Rider and the like but I’m certain not a lot know about Golden Bat. Golden Bat was probably Japan’s first superhero and he was created way back in 1930 by writer Ichiro Suzuki and artist Takeo Nagamatsu. There has been several movies to feature him over the years and he even had an anime series in 1967. Don’t make the mistake that because he’s not talked about in the same breath as the other famous Japanese superheroes named above that he might not be so popular because apparently that isn’t the case. So how can I describe this superhero? Facially he looks like The Red Mask from Captain America, he laughs maniacally, he flies, beats up the bad guys with his baton and does a lot of stupid poses……….as superheroes do!!! He’s also got a pet bat which turns into a pendant. Golden Bat gives this to Emily so whenever she’s in trouble she can call him up with this pendant.

golden bat screenshot

This movie which is targeted towards kids is if I’m being honest rather silly and has a ridiculous villain named Nazu. Basically he looks like a rat with 4 eyes (that can shoot lasers), he has a metal claw for one hand and his costume is just some brown velvet curtains. Looks cheap, tacky and rather hilarious. Just for the look alone you can’t really take him seriously enough! He has a band of lackeys following him (a giggling idiot who enjoys torture and is Nazo’s second in command, a female shapeshifter and a werewolf man) plus some faceless goons dressed all in black. Just like the super sentai and tokusatsu shows of today, these faceless goons are the ones that are sacrificed first whenever their master is in trouble. Even though this movie is short at 73 mins, it packs a lot of action with plenty of fights and confrontations. I’m not sure if the director was inspired by those US serials that were broadcasted during the 30’s and 40’s which had a lot of cliffhanger moments but it somehow feels like one of them. The special effects is hit and miss but I was impressed with one scene which shows Nazo’s drill like tower ship bulldozing it’s way from underground to rise up into Tokyo’s skyline making it look rather threatening. Other visual wonders include a flying car (an idea from Gerry Anderson’s early 60’s Super Car series perhaps?) and a flying submarine similar to Atragon. For a kids movie it is surprisingly violent which shows children being choked by the villains and a scene with human hostages being thrown from a tall tower to their deaths. I’m sure this kind of thing wouldn’t have been shown to Western kids at the time!

Viewers will instantly recognize the face of a young Sonny Chiba in this movie. Back in the day before he became a tough bone-breaking action guy in Japanese movies during the 70’s, he starred in several low budget b-movie productions and this was one of them. Those hoping to see the great man kick some ass with his fists will be disappointed though. He hadn’t adopted that persona just yet, that was still to come. His character is relegated to being a bit part player though as it’s the Golden Bat that’s the main man here. I didn’t expect to see a Western actor have a role in this movie but Andrew Hughes performs as the founder of the Pearl Research Institute and has his lines dubbed into Japanese.

OK, so this movie isn’t going to win any awards for anything but I had a great time watching this fun movie with it’s weird crazy plot and a laughing superhero who hurries headlong into attacking his enemies. If you go into watching this movie with the right mind frame you’ll find it hugely entertaining.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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A man that’s been attacked hands his glass eye over to Koryu Lee before dying. The eye has a small microfilm inside that has information about a diamond smuggling ring. Koryu is given an assignment of finding the daughter of a wealthy family as she is friends with them so off she heads from Hong Kong to Japan. Koryu discovers that the same diamond smuggling ring that was on the microfilm has captured the daughter along with other girls. The girls are being used by the gang to smuggle diamonds by surgically implanting them into the girls’ ass cheeks! Will Koryu manage to smash the gang and save the girls?

Made very quickly after the success of the first Sister Street Fighter movie, this is basically a rehash of the first movie but instead of looking for her missing brother, Koryu this time round is looking for a missing family friend. The same production team all returned for the fast turnaround in completing this movie. Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi sticks to the same tried and tested formula that worked before. The only difference is there more fast and furious action, more exploitation and more sadistic gore. I would say it’s better than the first movie which is rare usually for a sequel. There’s no cameo by Sue Shiomi’s mentor Sonny Chiba in this movie, instead she gets Yasuaki Kurata who plays a man named Tsubaki as her backup who brings his own intense and frenzied high kicking/brutal style of fighting to the table. Together the pair take on the smuggling ring and proceed to destroy their operations once and for all.


There’s hardly any pause for breath in between the action that takes place. Koryu takes on an assortment of colourful villains with their own fighting techniques which includes a zulu spearman and a weird pairing of a mad doctor with his transvestite assistant who has razor sharp fingernails. The story is completely OTT so you expect to see characters like that in this type of movie! It culminates in Koryu and Tsubaki entering a place full of ninjas and some assassins sparring where the pair kick the merry shit out of all of them with a classical composition by Mussorgsky as the soundtrack!! I did mention that the gore content has been increased in this movie and the viewer will see a couple of eyeballs being pierced, an armpit stabbing and Koryu slicing off an opponent’s arm! I did wince at seeing a woman’s ass cheek being cut open by a surgical knife to retrieve some diamonds – all done without any anesthetic. Poor woman – that must have hurt! Other women are seen being tortured by flame. The only thing I felt let down was the need to copy an aspect from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon by the chief villain Oh and a ludicrous aerial battle.

Sue Shiomi had a great debut in the first Sister Street Fighter movie and in this movie she looks settled and fights better than ever. It helps that she’s easy on the eye . She even handles a nunchuka which I imagine is a difficult weapon to master with ease. Shiomi may be small in stature but she more than makes up for that in her martial arts skills and holds her own against anybody – a mistake many of the baddies make in this movie is they assume she’s weak just because she’s a woman. You wouldn’t want to make her angry at all – she’s as tough as she comes! It becomes a personal mission to smash the smuggling ring for Koryu when she finds out her sister is involved and has been tortured. Her male co-star Yasuaki Kurota wasn’t a fresh faced newcomer to this genre as he had previously performed in a couple of Hong Kong productions before this movie. He is very impressive in this movie.

Overall, the 2nd Sister Street Fighter movie is a lot of fun and very entertaining to watch. If it’s non-stop action you desire you’ve certainly come to the right place. There are still 2 more sequels that I need to see sometime in the future and if they’re anything like this movie I know I’ll enjoy them. Give this movie a go if you’re into crazy martial arts/action movies.

No trailer but here’s a clip of Sue Shiomi beating up some trees!!

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Angel 2 (1988)


Aka Iron Angels 2/Fighting Madam 2

After the Angel team complete their latest mission to save a kidnapped businessman, they go on holiday to Malaysia where they meet Alex’s old college friend Peter who is a successful businessman. Alex doesn’t know that Peter harbours an ambition to overthrow the government and has amassed a small army in the jungle where they are awaiting orders. When he’s not training with his army, Peter enjoys watching footage of his idol Adolf Hitler! One of the Angel team Elaine has fallen big time for Peter and when she stumbles upon his plan she hides underneath his private helicopter to see what’s going on in his jungle hideout. She witnesses a CIA agent Marco being murdered by Peter and unfortunately is discovered in the process before being captured. Alex and Moon call up fellow agent Karina (and her 2 male helpers) to aid them in a frontal assault on Peter’s hideout to rescue Elaine.

This is great sequel to the first Angel movie which was released in 1986 after it proved to be popular and the leading trio of Alex Fong, Moon Lee and Elaine Lui return to reprise their roles. It can’t strictly be classed as a ‘girls with guns’ feature because instead of focusing strictly on Moon and Elaine, this movie is more about Alex Fong’s character and his association with the villain of the story. It opens with a fantastic action packed rescue of a businessman from a group of killers. After dispatching the majority of them, one of the baddies puts a grenade in the mouth of the kidnapped man. Alex shoots the baddie in the head but in falling down dead he pulls the pin out of the grenade. Alex quickly kicks the grenade out of the businessman’s mouth before Moon catches it and throwing it quickly out of a window before it explodes. It’s a fast paced and action packed start to entice viewers to the movie.

Iron Angel II screenshot

The plot slows down in the middle section for the viewer to be introduced to Alex’s friend Peter in Kuala Lumpur and his plans to dominate Asia. There’s a big brawl in a bar to interest action fans as Peter and Alex take on a transvestite gang and a small car chase through the jungle! After Elaine is captured by Peter and his associates, it gears up for the superb finale as Alex, Moon and Karina load up with a variety of weapons (machine guns, grenades, crossbow, blowguns etc) and head off to take on Peter and his army in the jungle. The introduction of Karina is a good one as she’s one bad-ass lady. All manner of explosions go off as everything in Peter’s camp is blown up. Moon Lee gets to do an incredible stunt from a look-out post up a tall tree when it explodes after a small missile is launched from a rocket launcher and she falls from a great height before crashing through the roof of an explosive store. She also has a brief fast and furious fight with one of Peter’s henchmen played by the action choreographer Yuen Tak before the movie finishes with a bloody and brutal fistfight between Alex and Peter near a waterfall. I wished the scenes would have been swapped about as Moon’s scrap is much better than Alex’s one and would have made for a far better ending for the movie. Although Alex is a capable enough fighter, he doesn’t come close to what Moon Lee was able to achieve. The movie makes you wonder how this small army hoped to overthrow the Malaysian government if they couldn’t deal with 6 people as they are completely decimated! I thought the movie suffered a little bit by not having a strong enough villain. The first Angel movie was blessed with having Yukari Oshima and Hwang Jang Lee as the evil bad guys. Ting Wai-Chin is OK as Peter but he’s just not threatening enough. There’s also less intense action but that’s only a minor quibble. The movie is still very entertaining and I enjoyed it.

Overall, Angel 2 is a competent action movie which would have been better had it not been for the middle section (although I’m sure the sight of seeing Moon Lee and Elaine Lui in black bikinis by the swimming pool is a welcome sight for a lot of people!). The first and last third of the movie will be enough though to satisfy most HK action fans. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Moon Lee.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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In the line of duty 6

Two cops Chen and Hua (one from Mainland China and the other from Taiwan) go to Hong Kong on the trail of smugglers who are using the city as a temporary base to hide 600 guns before it is shipped on to Taiwan to sell. Their confrontation with the smugglers on the streets raises the ire of the HK Police who are furious with the two for bringing their fight to the city. They assign a tough female detective Madam Yeung to assist them with the hope of bringing the criminals to justice. The only problem with trying to catch the smugglers is they have better firepower than the cops which brings danger to everybody concerned.

Viewers who have been following the ITLOD franchise from the beginning will have seen the standards have slightly dropped since no.4 and this one unfortunately whilst having a couple of nice set pieces never really hits the heights that were achieved in the first 4 movies. It starts out really well with Cynthia Khan’s character having a great one-on-one fight on top of a 16 wheeler truck which continues with a running gun battle on the streets before it ends on a high in the last 15 mins with a brilliant gunfight battle at the smugglers lair. Sadly it all falls apart during the middle section where things slow down and the dialogue between the two male cops and the HK police is more about the differences between the law in the colony and that of the pair’s respective countries. The Chinese cop falls for the sister of the chief smuggler which complicates matters. It also has some comedy that isn’t funny at all – an example of this is the Chinese cop not knowing how to work a microwave oven and he promptly blows it up in Cynthia’s apartment. Some of the lame brained comedy on offer may even upset some viewers (the talk about homosexuals in a bar is particularly cringe-worthy and rather offensive).

In the line of duty 6 screenshot

There’s a lot more focus on the two leading male characters in this movie which means that Cynthia’s screentime is less than the pair which I thought was a mistake. The fact that the pair squabble all the time is rather annoying as well. Naturally all of this is resolved as they realise that only by teaming up with each other can they take down the bad guys. The movie only comes alive when Cynthia gets to do what she does best – kicking ass and taking no prisoners. It’s particularly memorable in this movie as she fights in a rather tight short skirt which will please many male viewers!! I’m not sure how she was able to perform certain kicks with that skirt – one guy goes flying with tremendous speed from one kick (it’s like he’s attached to a large rubber band that snaps back). She even gets to smooch with the Taiwanese cop right at the end of the movie before she comes to her senses and gives him a good right hook in the mouth which ends the movie.

This is certainly not one of the best entries of the ITLOD franchise. The action scenes are too sporadic throughout the movie and isn’t that exciting apart from Cynthia’s initial fight. It just about managed to maintain my interest. Just one more movie (Sea Wolves) to go before I’m done with watching all 7 in the franchise. I only hope it’s a bit better than this one!

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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police story 2013

Captain Zhong Wen is a decorated police veteran who is trying to recover from the death of his wife. He agrees to meet up with his estranged daughter Miao Miao at a nightclub which is holding a special event. As Zhong, his daughter and all the guests arrive there, the nightclub is locked down by the owner Wu Jiang where he intends to hold everybody hostage. Making things even more complicated for Zhong is the fact that Wu is Miao Miao’s boyfriend.  This isn’t just a random hostage situation. Wu has invited the guests to his nightclub for a purpose. The hostages all know each other and it boils down to a tragic incident involving Wu’s little sister. The nightclub has also been primed with a bomb. Will Captain Zhong be able to save the day?

This, the 6th Police Story movie in the franchise is unrelated to the first 4 movies and is completely different in tone. What’s really annoying by associating it with Police Story is action fans will expect this to be a high-octane fast paced movie filled with stunts and martial arts fights. I’m sorry to disappoint you all but this movie has none of that. This is more of a serious police drama rather than a thrilling ride – something like New Police Story which came out in 2004. The days of Jackie Chan doing incredible stunts I believe are well and truly over. As I’ve said before when reviewing other recent Jackie movies, time has caught up with him. He can’t be expected to do that kind of work anymore. The guy is still nimble enough and I’m sure if he really wanted to do an all-action movie he could but he’s gone on record in saying he wants to slow down and concentrate on more dramatic roles. Maybe it’s a case of ‘been there, done that’. Fair enough I say.

police-story-2013 screenshot

This is a character driven and tense drama which works fine for the most part. Jackie plays a policeman seeking redemption as he tries to patch up his relationship with his daughter who admits he was a bad father in the past as he took more interest in his work than family matters. I have to admit that the plot was a little bit lacklustre and the fact that the movie doesn’t have a good enough villain didn’t help things either. The first half is dull and plodding but things pick up slightly in the second half as the viewer is shown flashbacks on why Wu Jiang has taken these people hostage. It seems all of the people had a hand in the death of Wu Jiang’s little sister who had her throat slashed in a tense stand-off between Captain Zhong and a man who had taken her hostage. Wu Jiang wants to know the truth as to what happened to her. There are a couple of decent action scenes which include a brutal cage fight between Jackie and a Thai fighter. Jackie is banged up pretty well in this movie – not content with being beaten up, he’s also shot in the chest as well. It’s just a shame that the action scenes are full of CGI effects and fairly short.

Jackie is OK in this movie and he proves that he can take a dramatic role by the scruff of the neck and make it look believable for the viewer. Zhong is quite a serious character so there’s none of the trademark JC humour in the story. Tian Jang is the eye candy of the movie as Jackie’s rebellious daughter. She sadly doesn’t get to do that much except look beautiful. Lie Yu performs well as Wu Jiang but he doesn’t make for a good villain at all.

Overall, this is just an average police drama and is worthy of only being watched once. There’s nothing memorable that sticks out in my mind about this movie and IMO it’s completely forgettable. Let’s hope Jackie can pull off one more brilliant action movie like he did in the past just to remind his fans that he’s still got it. Even though Western fans might be disappointed here, the same cannot be said about people in Mainland China who loved this movie. It proved to be a massive success there.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Protector 2 poster

Set 5 years after the events of the first movie, Kham is teaching kids how to communicate to elephants with the help of his beloved Khon who he treats like a brother. He learns through a friend that somebody wants to buy his elephant but he refuses. Kham leaves Khon with his friend whilst he goes to town. When he comes back to his place, his friend has been attacked and his elephant kidnapped once more. Kham goes to the house of the person that wanted to buy Khon only to find he’s been murdered. He’s caught in the house by the dead man’s two nieces who assume that Kham has murdered him. Kham is forced to go on the run from the two women. The real culprit is an organisation headed by a foreign man named LC. They kidnap Kham and ask him to assassinate a politician to bring about a civil war between two countries or Khon will come to some harm. With the help of an Interpol police agent and one of the nieces, Kham sets out to destroy LC and his organisation.

This movie heralds the return of Tony Jaa who went on hiatus for a couple of years and allegedly became a monk (not sure if that’s true or not?). His last movie before he disappeared (Ong Bak 3) was a total disaster. The problem that led to his hiatus was because of a 10 year contract with Samhangkol Film International that Jaa was tied up to. He wanted to do other movies but they weren’t going to allow him to do that. It’s alleged that Jaa had a bit of a breakdown because of this problem so he walked away from everything and waited until the contract had finished. This has now happened which is why he’s back making this movie. The funny thing is Jaa has signed up to the same studio again and they’re the ones behind this movie. I just hope Jaa has asked for some concessions this time with his new contract or the same problems could arise again. Another person returning is female action star Jeeja Yanin. Back in 2012 she shocked her fans when she announced she was pregnant and was going to get married. A movie containing both these Thai action stars you’d hope would be a right cracker but as you’ll see in the review below this movie is a bit of a mixed bag and it doesn’t really deliver.

It’s best for me to tell those that expect this movie to mark a return to form for Tony Jaa to lower their expectations. Trust me, if you do this you won’t be disappointed by what you see. It is nothing like the enjoyable first Protector movie. The biggest problem with this movie is the overuse of CG effects which is really ropey and looks terrible. Gone are the real stunts and proper fights we saw in Jaa’s previous movies. The reliance on third-rate special effects and wirework is shown at its worst in an overlong motorbike/rooftop chase during the first half which at times looks fake and it isn’t even believable. You have to suspend your disbelief watching this sequence. I have no idea why the Thai filmmakers turned their backs on the raw stunts/fights – elements which had made the previous movie so successful.  It seems that Jaa isn’t even fighting at his usual speed during the movie, perhaps he was asked to slow down to accomodate the limited martial arts skills of RZA and Marrese Crump. I did find it strange why they also chose to rip Star Wars lightsaber sounds for one of Jaa’s fights on electrified train tracks. Wonder if George Lucas knows about it?

Protector 2 screenshot

Tony Jaa is just OK in this movie, he is definitely not at his best here. It’s gonna take a movie with a better script to repair his reputation. I was quite pissed off at the treatment of Jeeja Yanin. She is shamefully underused and only pops up now and then to help Jaa’s character out and coupled with the fact that she is made to look weak in certain scenes this really annoyed me. What an opportunity the director had in having two of the hottest Thai martial artists around in his movie and he totally screws it up. The worst actor of all in the whole production is RZA (he of The Man WithThe Iron Fists fame) who doesn’t come up to scratch as the lead villain. He is just terrible and his acting is pathetic in this movie. Couldn’t they have picked somebody better to go up against Tony Jaa? I’m sure there are plenty of actors who could have done a much better job. Marrese Crump as RZA’s no.2 in his organisation manages to outshine his American co-star by having a couple of great one-on-one scraps with Jaa.

At the end of the day, whilst it’s good to see Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin back on the big screen, I can’t rate this movie other than plain average. The plot is a bit of a mess and the awful CGI effects doesn’t help things one bit. Hopefully things will improve for both stars in the future and I eagerly await their next movies.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Deadful Melody dvd

A little girl and her brother are forced to flee with the family’s magic lyre when their parents are massacred although they are split up during the pursuit by their enemies. The magic lyre has the power to kill and certain people are desperate to get their hands on it. 16 years on and the little girl named Snow has grown into a woman. She is the current owner of the lyre and hasn’t forgotten about what happened to her parents. She sets out to seek vengeance on those that wronged her. Snow has a plan which will draw out her enemies by asking a courier Lui Lun to transport the lyre to a certain person. She knows that if her enemies find out about the lyre, they are certain to attack the courier in order to steal it. Lui Lun’s father is killed by the villains only for him to discover that he wasn’t his real father. He was adopted when he was a child and that he is really Snow’s sister. Although angry with Snow at first for getting him involved with her plans of revenge, he is eventually reconciled with his sister. They team up together to fight off their enemies once and for all.

This HK wuxia movie isn’t that well-known over in the West but it has all the ingredients of what makes the genre so much fun to watch (which includes people fighting through the air, a ludicrous plot, some OTT characters and plenty of swordfights). The story starts out very promisingly with an exciting action-packed sequence and this sets the pattern for the rest of the movie with the energetic and inventive action scenes coming thick and fast with hardly a pause in between them. At least nobody will be able to complain that the movie is boring!! Viewers could get confused with the complex plot as there is so many characters and trying to fathom which side each of them are on might make your head spin!!  Then again this isn’t a movie to be taken seriously so let the plot go over your head and just enjoy the spectacle that unfolds onscreen.

Deadful Melody screenshot

The plot as you’d expect from this genre is totally bonkers and the lyre in question when played properly can kill a person (in fact they explode in a cloud of multi-coloured dust!!). It seems to me like the filmmakers went in with an ‘anything-goes’  approach to the action scenes. I’m glad they did as that what makes this movie a joy to watch. You just never know what the hell they’re going to come up with next. The special effects and the wirework scenes are exhilarating. The humour in the plot is funny at times as well – some of the colourful dialogue in particular will make you smile! Unfortunately there isn’t a resolution to the story which suggested to me that there was a sequel being planned (which obviously didn’t take place after all).

Some might say that Brigitte Lin is typecast once again in a cross-dressing role but I thought she was great in it. You can always count on Brigitte to give a good performance which came a year before she quit the movie business. Her character isn’t quite so straight forward as you think – her mind has been so consumed by revenge she’s close to becoming just a cold hearted murderess and not somebody that’s out for justice for her parents. Yuen Biao holds his own with Brigitte Lin but he sure looks his age in this movie. He also doesn’t get to show a lot of his usual acrobatic martial arts skills because it’s more about sword-fighting so I felt a bit let-down because of that. Biao and Lin complement each other quite well in this movie. Although she’s not in a lot of scenes, Siu Wing-Sang is stunning as a witch who is deadly with a whip and the reliable Carina Lau is also funny as a feisty woman. The actors playing the clan leaders who are after Snow and her lyre also give good performances

If you’re a fan of OTT wuxia movies you should find this enjoyable enough. It’s far from being a classic but it will hold your interest due to the enthusiastic action scenes. I had fun watching it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Gatchaman movie

The evil organisation Galactor headed by Berg Katse have invaded the planet Earth and are trying to conquer it. The I.S.O though have a trick up their sleeve in a group of teenagers who have special powers to combat their threat. Will Galactor’s scheme come to fruition or will Gatchaman save the day?

Gatchaman or Battle Of The Planets as it was known to everybody in the West was a very popular show in the 70’s and 80’s. Running for 3 seasons in Japan, it is the first season that viewers in the West is more familiar with than the other two (though the 2nd season was eventually translated into English during the late 90’s and aired as Eagle Riders). Sandy Frank bought the rights to the first season of Gatchaman where he began to butcher the original Japanese editions by cutting the most violent parts out such as people dying and adding new animation made by Gallerie International Films. These contained added characters 7-Zark-7 and his associates 1-Rover-1, and Susan to inform the viewers from the G-Force base called Center Neptune what kind of mission our heroic team was going to do each episode.  I loved BOTP as a child and had no idea it was a Japanese anime until the early 90’s and with the internet in its infancy I began to try and find out more about it. It was during this time I discovered what Sandy Frank had done and that the Japanese originals were far more violent than what I had seen and that the annoying 7-Zark-7 wasn’t even in it. This piqued my interest so much I just had to get my hands on the originals. In the end there was a man from Kansas selling the last 5 episodes of the first season which had never been aired in the West on a bulletin board (no Ebay before late 1995!). On watching those episodes you could see straight away how far superior it was to BOTP. Since that time I’ve grown into a big fan of Gatchaman and I was excited upon hearing that a live-action movie was coming out. The trailer didn’t do anything for me but I was prepared to give it a chance. You’ll see below that it didn’t turn out quite as I expected it to be.

The movie started out brightly enough with an impressive attack on Tokyo by Galactor in which they use a massive spiked spinning wheel to destroy roads and buildings. The Gatchaman team is quickly introduced (leader Ken, Jun, Jinpei, Ryu and Jo) who use their powers to foil the attack. Now you would think that this would set the tone for the rest of the movie but sadly it doesn’t. This is probably the highlight of the entire movie. It’s all downhill for the rest of the story. The majority of the movie is as flat as a pancake with no spark in the cliche ridden script. Not even the climatic fight between Berg Katse and the team on some stone pillars did anything for me. I couldn’t wait for the movie to end. Those that expect this to have resemblance to what you loved as a child will be really disappointed – I guess it was my fault for setting my expectations too high.

Gatchaman screenshot

This is a modern remake of Gatchaman. I’m not a fan of remakes to be perfectly honest, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to shows I adored as a child. The costumes and the Phoenix have been radically altered and some things have been left out altogether. Where is Sosai X, Jun’s yo-yo weapon or the individual team vehicles inside the Phoenix?  Even the Bird Go transformation cry is missing. I’m not too enamoured with the Gatchaman characters either. The underlying animosity between Ken and Jo which ran throughout the original Japanese anime is retained but with a poor explanation of why that’s the case. The whole team is just bland, forgettable and downright uninteresting and it’s hard to feel any empathy towards them. And then we come to the special effects. It’s very inconsistent to say the least.

I’m glad to say that I wasn’t the only one complaining about this movie. Japanese movie fans gave it a big thumbs down and it only scraped into the Top 5 in the box office charts before disappearing completely soon after.  I’m sure had there been a director who loved Gatchaman and had at least tried to be faithful in tone to the anime it might have worked. It seemed to me that the director wanted to piss the hardcore fans off with his own version and disregard the history of the show. Well he certainly succeeded if that was his intention!

In the end, this wasn’t a good movie at all. Maybe I woudn’t have minded all the big changes if the movie had been fun and entertaining. Even though there is a hint of a sequel at the end,  I would imagine the chances of that happening has gone down the drain after this disaster. I’m sure newbie fans to the franchise will enjoy it but if like me you were hoping for a welcome blast to the past be prepared for a big letdown.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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