Reviews written by registered user
simonize-1

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28 reviews in total 
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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Why can't Quentin Tarantino make movies like this?, 14 December 2009

Cast: KANG-HO SONG is YOON TAE-GOO aka The Weird formerly ELI WALLACH aka the Ugly

BYUNG-HUN LEE is PARK CHANG-YI aka The Bad, formerly LEE VAN CLEEF aka The Bad

WOO-SUNG JUNG is PARK DO-WON aka The Good, formerly CLINT EASTWOOD aka The Good

Why can't Quentin Tarantino makes movies like this? The Korean creators of this film have made a very acceptable homage to the similarly titled film THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. While American born writer and director Tarantino draws inspiration from earlier films, now considered to be cult favourites, and not the critical failures they were initially regarded as, his films always seem to have a spirit of meanness I find thankfully absent in this Korean actioner.

Veteran lead actor Kang-ho Song is a versatile enough actor to approximate the role of Tuco, and indeed, at time looks like ELI WALLACH. Woo-sung Jung updates the CLINT EASTWOOD character of the bounty hunter supreme, and is just as as taciturn as Clint except for the short interlude when he and the Weird share sleeping quarters. mistrust the other.

LEE VAN CLEEF is reincarnated in style by Byung-hun Lee, suitably dressed in funereal black and sporting the scars of his livelihood. He is utterly ruthless from start to finish; he doesn't allow his own men to challenge or to question him, and is totally focused on what he wants to achieve.

This film certainly comes close to wearing out its welcome but the concluding scenes will make it worth your while. Before that conclusion you will be treated to an incredible visual feast of fascinating characters in varied and outrageous costume; landscapes so alien and so vast as to be overwhelming in their novelty, and fanciful and exotic locations chosen as stunning backdrops to the expertly choreographed gunfights that fill this film.

Writer-director Ji-woon Kim certainly has succeeded in creating a distinctive and memorable ORIENTAL WESTERN with this film, that hopefully will see if not a North American theatrical release, then at least a special edition DVD release.

The Icon Blu Ray out of the UK is the international version running 130 minutes and not the 124 minutes shown on the packaging. This release offers a lossless 5.1 digital audio track; the English subtitles are not burnt in, and available at a very competitive price!

Yes, I have watched both Tarantino's INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and its inspiration directed by ENZO CASTELLARI, and would not care to watch the former again, or to recommend it for others to view.

Alatriste (2006)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
This will disappoint North Americans who have yet to find an English translation of the fifth book in the Perez-Reverte ALATRISTE series., 7 December 2008
5/10

This lengthy film will likely disappoint North American readers who have yet to read the fifth in the Antonio Perez-Reverte historical series chronicling the life and death of one Captain Diego Alatriste. Then again very few will be aware that a film has been made, and that it stars VIGGO MORTENSON, best known here for his on-going role in the hugely successful adaption of J. R. R. TOLKIEN's THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

This film attempts to compact the first five novels into one epic yet personal picture about Spain at the height of its powers. Unfortunately the fourth work in the series THE KING'S GOLD has only just become available in hardcover, AND it may be another two years before the fifth arrives! Significantly, I feel that American readers could find many parallels to this Spain and their own country. One memorable piece of verse says something like, Spain plundered the whole world alone, But now the whole world waits to plunder Spain alone.

That said, I give this film low marks because of the difficulties my girlfriend and I had in viewing it. The film begins in Flanders and sets up the lifelong relationship between the fiercely independent Alatriste and Inigo, the son of a deceased comrade in arms. This situation which makes up most of the first novel is over and done with very quickly. So too is the introduction of the masterful Italian swordsman MALATESTA who is commissioned along with ALATRISTE to assassinate two visiting English members of the royalty.

Somehow within the first hour we get to book four, THE KING'S GOLD. This is especially poorly done, as Alatriste's motivation for taking on the suicidal task is not properly explained and neither is his recruiting of the team. In the film a very moving celebration of life - for a condemned man - is somehow dismissed, and shown only because Alatriste approaches the man for help.

So when the late night/early morning assault on the ship carrying gold from the Americas takes place we know of the men, and worse, the dutiful accountant - OLMEDILLA, if I remember correctly - written in such detail is invisible.

As to the one great love in Alatriste's life, I do not recall the woman MARIA in any of the books, and she is really given short shrift in the film, though it is obvious that the Captain makes great sacrifices for her.

Two other major concerns: no one ever addresses anyone else by name and so you have no idea who is who, and the girl Angelica is dark haired and not blonde with ringlets and green eyes! The running time of this film is frequently listed as 147 minutes but my copy courtesy of Xploited Video only runs 138 minutes (the credits are lengthy and accompanied by music that adds nothing).

The first four books in the series probably total a 1000 pages, and sadly it shows. Thank you for your patience in reading this lengthy discourse.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
TI LUNG - a change of pace - in an actioner with a misogynistic twist, and KU FENG relegated to a secondary role, 25 August 2008
8/10

THE DEADLY BREAKING SWORD stands apart from other Shaw Bros. productions starring TI LUNG in making him an unsympathetic, even an unlikeable character. The more SB films one sees, the more rewarding it can be as you see how the filmmakers would attempt to move beyond the genre formulas, even though they used the same actors and production crews.

His role as TUAN CHANGQING, the Deadly Breaking Sword, puts him at odds with the rest of the martial world. He is an aberration of his famous heroic roles, eg. THE SENTIMENTAL SWORDSMAN cycle: he is no longer a protector of the weak, and the old, nor is he a defender of helpless women (though one might argue, there are no so called helpless women in this story).

He looks ahead to the likes of FRANKIE CHAN's nobleman in THE PRODIGAL SON and Donnie Yen's General in the superior ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA II. A superior fighter who provokes less fighters into mortal combat; a sadist who not only provides his quarry a coffin but who also relishes detailing his deadly breaking sword technique.

The film cleverly begins with a duel with LIAN SAN (WAI-MAN CHAN) whose own reputation rests with his Throat-Piercing Halberd. The two fighters are well matched, and both sustain serious wounds. The contest ends with LIAN's flight to safety.

LIAN's miraculous recovery is brought about by GUO TIANSHENG (KU FENG). GUO hides behind a facade he has skilfully created in which he is a warm, compassionate and peace loving man. He has an ulterior motive for saving LIAN's life.

The catalyst for the ensuing action is LIU JINHUA, a successful prostitute who comes to town, and hopes to enlist TUAN's services to kill GUO, whom she believes betrayed her brother years ago.

Add to this potentially confusing mix, FU SHENG playing his patented scoundrel, except this time, he is too blind to comprehend that the beautiful LUO JINHUA (LILY LI) is totally in love with him. XIAO DAO (FU) spends most of the film trying to get out of his indentured status. His need for quick, ready cash sets him on a collision course with both TUAN and GUO (aka THE KILLER DOCTOR).

There are several scenes where the key characters confront one another: in one, the smooth, sly GUO easily deceives TUAN; in another, TUAN accuses LIU of lying to him; in others, TUAN, still fooled by the KILLER DOCTOR, attempts to stop XIAO (FU SHENG) from taking on the mission of eliminating the Doctor - for money, and then there is the drastic course of action that FU SHENG takes when he fathoms what LILY LI has been doing.

There is a lot of action, well up to the usual house standards, and well staged too. But what stayed with me was TI LUNG's character TUAN CHANGQING, who is every bit the hypocrite that the good DOCTOR GUO is. It's a great scene when TUAN sitting down with XIAO tells him how wonderful he is as a fighter, and if he only had principles...

"Damages" (2007)
4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Urban warfare in a uniquely American landscape waged by at least half a dozen capable performers propelled by a brigade of uniformly excellent scriptwriters, 12 March 2008
10/10

Urban warfare waged in a uniquely American landscape by a brigade of capable performers propelled by a team of uniformly excellent scriptwriters...

The battle is being waged in a nameless metropolis, that could well be New York; it'a a city where the rich and the powerful live in a world all their own.

At stake is the future of some 5.000 workers; their only hope is to seek compensation from their employer, personally, as the business itself has gone under.

The employer and multi-millionaire Arthur Frobisher (TED DANSON) has already survived investigation by the SEC; now super lawyer Patty Hewes is attacking in force, and seemingly, with intent to destroy everything that is important to him (I keep thinking of the matchup between the mongoose and the cobra, and the surprise victor).

The script is adept at making Frobisher a very attractive and forceful personality; this is in sharp contrast to Hewes's cruelly and wilfully manipulative lawyer. I tended to side with Frobisher simply for his having litagator Ray Fiske (ZEIJKO IVANEK) for his defence. His is a wonderfully fully drawn character of enormous complexity, and actor IVANEK is equal to the task. Tom Shayes (TATE DONOVON), Hewes's supposed right hand man, is skilfully portrayed too; however, he loses the viewer's approval for his gutlessness as he is truly Hewes's creature.

The two leads, a pair of professionals on the move, seem slight in comparison, but their roles are integral in keeping the story moving. In some ways I found them the least interesting among the principal characters.

Initially I felt overwhelmed by the complexity of the story, by the speed it was being told, the shifts in time, the motivation of the characters, and of course, by the legal jargon. Now I can sit back and say that with patience, it all makes sense, and perhaps all that legalese was not that confusing - well done for great writing! Having viewed a dozen of the thirteen episodes, I can confirm the story and its time in and time out structure does maintain a forward momentum, and that I look forward to a very satisfying conclusion (Yeah, I would advise against giving too much plot away; that's not really the purpose of a review to begin with, and it certainly can take away surprise and the pleasure of being surprised from those who have not seen the entire series).

9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
A martial arts film that transcends the genre with its superior script and characterization and achieves a tragic quality all of its own., 4 February 2008
10/10

Sun Chung's AVENGING EAGLE is a martial arts film that transcends the genre; it boasts a superior script and characterization, and achieves a tragic quality of its own.

The Shaw Bros. studio churned out a lot of martial arts films in its 25 year heyday. AVENGING EAGLE is one of the most memorable that I have seen. The script takes the viewer back and forth in time, the flashbacks allow the viewer to discover more and more about its two protagonists (played by TI LUNG and Alexander FU SHENG). So interwined are their pasts that it is quickly obvious that they should actually be each other's enemy. But the logic is such that we can also readily accept that they put aside their differences, eliminate as many of the Iron Boat clan sent in pursuit of TI LUNG's character, and finally, take on the evil leader of the clan (KU FENG).

I found the dialogue especially good and satisfying, and I am sure that others who have seen the film, can think of at least four or five instances, whether the dialogue demonstrates wonderful irony, quiet sadness, and ensures the two heroes display real qualities of heroism.

SUN CHUNG and his crew show a wonderful eye for their locations, the exotic and distinctive costuming and weaponry (of the heroes, and also the thirteen Eagles, and of course, their leader).

With the opening shot, it was obvious this film was photographed away from the usual locations. That, the initial meeting of the two leads, their first skirmish with the Iron Boat gang, and much later, the remote inn that they 'rent' for a month to set up an elaborate ambush, and lastly, the lair of the gang, where SUN builds up to and sustains a lengthy climax, demonstrates a lot of imagination.

Even the music is effective, despite the mono sound of the Region 3 IVL/Celestial Pictures DVD, and is largely 'original'> This film is so good that I have not even broached the subject of its martial arts. And that alone, I believe, is reason enough that I consider AVENGING EAGLE one of the best martial arts films I have seen.

(PS: Consider a quarter century later the Japanese were making films along the same line, ie. AZUMI, which surely lacks the economy of this film, running almost an hour longer).

(PSS: I enjoyed the other contributors' comments on AVENGING EAGLE, surely more confirmation, this film deserves repeated viewing).

(PSSS: If you enjoyed this film, please take the time to track down and watch KILLER CONSTABLE).

25 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
A reasonable facsimile of Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant, 15 January 2008
8/10

BANG BANG YOU'RE DEAD aka Our Man In Marrakesh seems a low budget homage to the talents of director Alfred Hitchcock and actor Cary Grant. Imagine, if you will, a blending of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and you might have BANG BANG.

Tony Randall is very appealing as the much harried, put upon innocent who is caught up in a series of misadventures (his character Jessel actually says something like "We're suspected of being murderers, and we're being chased by murderers"). Randall is certainly not someone you would cast as the romantic lead, but you can readily accept that he and Senta Berger will become lovers.

Ms Berger's characters is very fond and adept at telling lies, and shaping the truth as she sees fit. She does it well, and is charming, and everyone likes her, not least the wily Arab truck driver Achmed (Gregoire Aslan), who twice saves the couple.

I had mistaken Margaret Lee for another Italian starlet but apparently she was born in Wolverhampton, England in 1943. She plays the sex kitten very well, and again, has some good lines.

The script is actually very good, the dialogue especially, with more memorable lines than I expected. The line-up of character actors is also fine, though Klaus Kinski's thug is nowhere as effective as the one he displayed in GRAND SLAM.

Locations are well chosen, the action good for its day, and the music by Malcolm Lockyer (someone who doesn't seem to have worked much in film) catches the flavour of Marrakesh, Morocco.

All in all, highly recommended (If you can find it!)

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
The new region 3 DVD of KILLER CONSTABLE was a revelation; this is a one of a kind Shaw Bros. film deserving cult status!, 18 June 2007
10/10

The recent Celestial Pictures region 3 DVD of the 1980 Shaw Bros. film THE KILLER CONSTABLE establishes that the picture deserves cult status. KILLER CONSTABLE is distinguished by a story quite different from the norm (though the set up may seem hackneyed now); sets, locations and atmosphere that are unique in the Shaw Bros. canon, and action and violence unusually cruel and explicit. Add to this, an ending that is very cynical.

Chen Kuan Tai is very effective in his portrayal of THE KILLER CONSTABLE, known for his policy of not taking prisoners. Such is his self righteous position as judge, jury and executioner, that some of his men take exception to his ruthlessness, and worse, his enemies use that predictability against him.

The story is set in motion when the Royal Treasury is robbed of 2,000,000 taels of gold. Chen's character LENG TIAN-YING is given the unenviable job of recovering the gold, and bringing the robbers to justice. In just 10 days. To save face for his superior, who stands otherwise to face the wrath of the Empress Dowager! LENG is able to build a small posse of five men, who are more devoted to him, than they are to the mission. Too late LENG discovers that loyalty has its costs, and too late he discovers exactly who his enemies are.

Once LENG and company leave the capital their journey is like a descent into hell. They enter into and travel through one wasteland after another; do battle in darkness, in rain, in swamps, in mud and everything in between. I have read comments that dismiss the film, because it is a sword fighting film. This is certainly true, but there is no end to the weapons on display and the variety of styles and subterfuge. Furthermore, the sheer savagery of the bloodletting and lifetaking is such you would imagine yourself to being viewing a horror film.

During this journey LENG and his men must battle the elements as well as an ever present enemy. LENG never seems to have any difficulty of finding the original culprits, something he does wonder at, nor is he curious why none of them have very much of the gold with them. He certainly lacks imagination but never resolve. LENG is actually very human and CHEN portrays his failings and even his humanity, as effectively as he does his unswerving dedication to the cause.

Even the music is distinctive; I didn't hear any of the recycled Ennio Morricone, Messrs. Jerry Fielding and Goldsmith - indeed the scene that introduces the character of KU FENG and his blind daughter is quite unlike anything I have heard in a SHAW BROS. film.

I came away mightily impressed by everything in this film and all the contributing elements -it's a film that does not seem to have become dated at all.

My one concern was that the NTSC DVD runs 92 minutes; the only other running time I have see for KILLER CONSTABLE is 99 minutes (however this seems to be true of almost all the region 3 SHAW BROS. DVDs).

PS: A tael is the equivalent of 1 1/3 oz; not much, but imagine moving 2,000,000 bars of gold this size!

The Robber Bride (2007) (TV)
5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Clever, well acted and produced but curiously uninvolving, 22 January 2007
6/10

I found myself comparing this to another psychological thriller I had seen recently - CACHE aka HIDDEN - much to the disadvantage of THE ROBBER BRIDE.

The film begins with a scene that makes the viewer expect an investigation a la CSI. Instead it is a single individual investigating a team of trio of women for the possible murder of a woman they all knew in their university years. John's character and personality seems to disappear as we learn more about Zenia the possible woman and the women, Charis, Roz and Tony.

None of the latter women engendered any of my sympathy, though the story argues (or does it?) that all three have been victimized by Zenia, who unerringly detects how best and how deeply the three can be hurt.

I found the choice of Mary-Louise Parker interesting in that she resembled a younger, more feminine Margaret Atwood.

I imagine that I missed a considerable amount of subtext because I have not read much Atwood, and as this is a fairly recent work, it very likely reiterates themes that she finds important.

I edited the commercials out of the film, and was left with slightly less than 89 minutes; so I must applaud those who sat through the live broadcast of THE ROBBER BRIDE, often enduring lengthy 4 minute or longer commercial - I found it incredibly annoying to fight off the numerous pop ups, usually for forthcoming programming, to the extent that I couldn't read or digest the all important closing credits!

21 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
A clever script from the late SEBASTIAN JAPRISOT and smart performances from the two male leads results in an engaging entertaining thriller, 12 September 2005
9/10

A clever script from the late SEBASTIAN JAPRISOT and smart performances from the two male leads - ALAIN DELON and CHARLES BRONSON (or should it be the other way around) result in an engaging and entertaining thriller.

Add to the above the competent direction from veteran JEAN HERMAN and a sparse but effective score by FRANCOIS DE ROUBAIX, it becomes easy why this film has an odd timeless quality.

This is a buddy buddy or bonding story with two loners, both disillusioned and world weary, returning, presumably from Algiers. Like the other colonial powers of this time (post WW II leading into the 60s), France had struggled to keep up appearances overseas. Losing Algiers was a bitter blow.

ADIEU L'AMI (the original title) chronicles the actions of our two (anti) heroes as they struggle to make a go of it, after their discharge.

One thing happens after another, and the viewer really has to pay attention, because JAPRISOT is lean and economical with his script: if it is there, then there must be a reason.

Suffice to say, these two men battle it out, physically and psychologically, one long weekend. Their motivation is quite different, their goals are different - their survival depends entirely on each other. That ALAIN DELON and CHARLES BRONSON are outwardly so different - the former, arguably a pretty boy, and the latter an ugly thug, adds to the chemistry.

That quest makes for a great story, which in turn, makes for a great film.

Lest I forget there are women in this film, and true to the Japrisot method, they too are memorable, though not nearly as fleshed out; to say much more would be to spoil one's delight in discovering their true nature.

FAREWELL, FRIEND HAS BEEN RELEASED IN THE UK; AN ANAMORPHIC IMAGE, 16.9 ENHANCED; IN English ONLY (not even subtitles for the hard of hearing); A RUNNING TIME OF 110 MINUTES; MONO SOUNDTRACK but the DE ROUBAIX music has lots of punch!

Highly recommended.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Another ODD COUPLE type film starring KA YAN LEUNG, 9 August 2005

This is yet another ODD COUPLE type film starring KA YAN LEUNG aka LEUNG KAR-YANwhose earlier film with SAMMO HUNG is rightly considered something of a masterpiece. This 1992 police procedural is not nearly as successful. Co-star DANNY LEE was much more appealing in THE KILLER opposite charismatic CHOW YUN FAT. In RED SHIELD, he is a rather unappealing character, playing a policeman so involved with his work, his wife never gets the opportunity to share with him that she might be pregnant.

KA is the opposite of DANNY LEE's character; he is obsessively jealous and continually worried that his glamorous, free-spirited wife is cheating on him.

Circumstances bring the two policemen together and they are assigned to bring down the crafty Dragon Ho (BEN LAM) and his team of ruthless thieves who successfully retreat back to China, after each of their missions.

I am afraid I have seen enough HK action films that I can dismiss this film as for being only for DANNY LEE fans; however, if you are able to see it on TV, as I did, it is worth seeing simply to see how low budget HK film-making was back in '92.


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