Thursday, 16 March 2017

Born Wild Review 2001 Hong Kong 野獸之瞳

Born Wild 野獸之瞳
Year: 2001
Director: Patrick Leung
Writer: Chan Hing-ka, Amy Chin
Cast: Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Patrick Tam, Jo Kuk
Running Time: 109 minutes
Country: Hong Kong

A dramatic boxing tale that has over stylized fight scenes, a messy plot, uninteresting characters and very bizarre musical choices. But, it's still mostly enjoyable and slightly above average.

Daniel Wu and Louis Koo star as fraternal twins Tide and Tan. After not seeing each other for 8 years, the police show up at Tide's (Wu) home to inform him that his brother Tan (Koo) has been found dead. Tide goes on a mission to discover what happened to his brother, and on his way he befriends Tan's best friend Mann (Patrick Tam) and his girlfriend Sandy (Jo Kuk) before discovering he was involved in underground boxing. Now Tide wants to avenge his brother against the man that murdered him, the undefeated Arion (Wrath White).

On paper this sounds like a pretty generic action storyline, but compliments to the writers, they delve deeper into the plot and motivations for each character. Unfortunately, the characters come off as a bit bland. It is really hard to relate to, or care about the characters, even though none of them deliver a bad performance. Daniel Wu and Louis Koo are both adequate in their roles, Patrick Tam is better. Acting as their best friend, Tam plays Mann, who is one of the most interesting parts of the whole film.

If you are expecting the usual style of Hong Kong action, you are in for disappointment. The fight scenes aren't bad per se. But they hardly even exist. Most of the underground boxing matches are shown in quick clips or montages and they are all heavily edited. Lots of quick cuts, close ups, motion blurs. It's often hard to tell what is actually going on in most of the "fight" scenes. Not too sure if these scenes were shot that way for artistic purposes, or to hide the actors boxing shortcomings. Daniel Wu can more than handle himself in Hong Kong action films.

There is plenty of Daniel and Louis topless on show, if you are into that sort of thing...

All of these issues aside, Born Wild is still bafflingly entertaining. Rather than the action being the high point, it's the dramatics. The side-stories and developing relationships between Tide and Mann, and Tide and Sandy are what drives the narrative. This is what makes the film charming and these are what sticks with you when it's all over.

The film is very stylish, it's just really great to look at, style over substance is very evident. Part of the enjoyment of these types of films is that you can just switch off, not take it too seriously, and look at the pretty pictures. Oddly, some of the musical choices are completely bonkers. Random heavy guitar riffs kicking in with no purpose. Or a random ballad getting belted out by Sandy while a supporting character plays along with the piano. A little jarring, but enjoyable!

Not exactly a film that will change your life or stay with you. But possibly worth a watch if you are a big fan of Daniel Wu or Louis Koo, or ultimately Patrick Tam. An above average Hong Kong film, but only just.


See this if you liked:
Boxing Hero
Fatal Contact

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

10 Upcoming Hong Kong Films You Should Be Excited About!

The golden age of Hong Kong cinema is clearly long gone. And although they still produce some great films every now and again, it's nothing compared to the amount of brilliant films they used to churn out regularly in the 80s and 90s.
However, it looks like that could all be about to change. With lots of exciting new information coming out of this years Filmart, it looks like the next couple of years could be filled with great films. I thought I would focus on some that I am most looking forward to.

Shock Wave (拆彈專家)

An action crime thriller directed by Herman Yau (The Mobfathers) and produced by and starring Andy Lau. Released in Hong Kong in April 2017.

Cheung Choi-san (Andy Lau) is a senior inspector of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD). Seven years ago, he went undercover and became the protege of Hung Kai-pang (Jiang Wu - A Touch Of Sin), a top wanted criminal specializing in bombs. Cheung successfully disintegrated Hung's criminal gang, but during the operation, Hung manages to escape while his younger brother and allies were captured. To seek revenge for Cheung's betrayal, Hung comes back seven years later and prepares to plant a series bombs in Hong Kong, which creates public panic.

The Brink (狂兽)

Upcoming Hong Kong action thriller directed by newcomer Jonathan Li, and produced by Soi Cheang and Paco Wong.

The Brink follows an ex-cop who gets caught in the line of fire when a smuggler launches a revenge attack on his godfather. Featuring the cast of Max Zhang (Ip Man 3), Shawn Yue (Wild City), Gordon Lam (Trivisa), Janice Man (Helios) and Wu Yue (Cold War 2).

Paradox (貪狼)

Another upcoming action film this time from Hong Kong action director Wilson Yip(Ip Man/SPL). With Sammo Hung handling the action choreography and Louis Koo (Call of Heroes) and Tony Jaa (SPL 2) starring, there is plenty to be excited about.

A police negotiator travels to Bangkok to search for his teenage daughter and is aided by local detectives played by Tony Jaa and Wu Yue. Along the way, he encounters the mastermind of an organ trafficking gang (Chris Collins), leading to a series of hot pursuit.

Drug Warn aka The Fixer (毒。诫)

Lawrence Lau directs Drug Warn previously known as The Fixer. Starring Sean Lau (Mad Detective), Louis Koo (Line Walker), Max Zhang (Ip Man 3) and Gordon Lam (Trivisa).

Drug Warn is a crime drama based on a true story about a Hong Kong gangster due for release later this year.

Taste of Crime (低压槽)

Nick Cheung's (Hungry Ghost Ritual/Keeper of Darkness) third time as a director will be action crime thriller Taste of Crime.

Starring Nick Cheung (Line Walker), Xu Jinglei (The Warlords) and Yu Nan (Wolf Warriors), the film tells the story of an undercover cop who unveils collusion between the highest level of government and the triads.

Love Off The Cuff (春嬌救志明)

Director Pang Ho-Cheung returns with his romantic comedy Love series. The follow up to Love In A Puff and Love In The Buff, is the third in the series Love Off The Cuff. Released in April 2017 in Hong Kong.

Miriam Yeung (Little Big Master) and Shawn Yue (Wild City) return and this time the couple go to Taiwan, their relationship gets tested when Jimmy’s(Yue) childhood friend asks him to donate sperm for her artificial insemination.

Chasing The Dragon (追龍)

Director Wong Jing brings real life 1970s gangster Crippled Ho (Donnie Yen - Ip Man) to life in a new crime drama. Andy Lau (The Great Wall) also stars, reprising his Lee Rock character.

The film follows Ng Sek-ho (aka Crippled Ho) as his days from an illegal immigrant through his rise to becoming one of Hong Kong's most powerful drug lords.

The Invincible Dragon (Made in Kowloon)

Director Fruit Chan (Dumplings) brings us The Invincible Dragon, formally known as Made in Kowloon.

Starring Max Zhang (Ip Man 3), Juju Chan (Sword of Destiny) and MMA icon Anderson Silva, this is an action film which was filmed in Hong Kong and Macau. The story follows a detective on the trail of a serial killer who may have abducted his fiance.

Cheung Tin-Chi

More Max Zhang! Oh Yes!

A spin off from the Ip Man series. Max Zhang's character from Ip Man 3 'Cheung Tin-Chi' gets his own film. Also starring Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Tony Jaa (Skin Trade) and Dave Bautista (Guardians of The Galaxy). And being directed by legendary Yuen Woo-Ping, there is plenty to be excited about!

Going in to production later this year!

Ip Man 4

Wow! Donnie Yen is back as the legendary Ip Man!Wilson Yip is returning as director and Yuen Woo Ping is on fight choreography.

Probably wont be out until late 2018.

There is plenty to be optimistic about and the future of Hong Kong cinema is looking extremely positive!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Complete A-Z List Of Reviews

1911 Revolution

The Admiral: Roaring Currents
The Assassin

Badge of Fury
Beijing Rocks
Boiling Point
Born Wild

The Cat
Chirstmas On July 24th Avenue
Comrades: Almost A Love Story
Conman In Tokyo
Cops And Robbers
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny

The Detective
Downtown Torpedoes

Eden of The East
Ex-Files 2

For Y'ur Height Only
Fukuchan of Fukufuku Flats

Happy Ero Christmas
Happy Together

Love In A Puff

The Mermaid
Merry Christmas
Mifune: The Last Samurai
A Moment of Romance

New Prince of Tennis


Perhaps Love
Police Story Lockdown (Police Story 2013)

Red Light Revolution
The Rules Of The Game
Running Out Of Time

Sadako 3D
Sake Bomb
Salute! Sun Yat Sen
A Scene At The Sea
The Search For Weng Weng
A Silent Voice
Shaolin Prince
Summer Time Machine Blues
A Snake of June

Three Extremes 2
Tokyo Fist

The Viral Factor

War of The Arrows
The White Storm

The Years Best Films
Best Asian Films of 2012
Best Asian Films of 2013
Best Asian Films of 2015
Best Asian Films of 2016

Top 10 Asian Horror Films

Beijing Rocks Review 2001 Hong Kong 北京樂與路

Beijing Rocks 北京樂與路
Year: 2001
Director: Mabel Cheung
Writer: Alex Law
Cast: Daniel Wu, Shu Qi, Geng Le, Faye Yu, Henry Ng
Running Time: 109 minutes

Mabel Cheung (An Autumn's Tale/City of Glass) directs another satisfying film this time focusing on the Bejing rock 'n roll culture, a love triangle and social commentary about being Chinese but coming from different cultures and countries.

Michael Ng(Daniel Wu) is a struggling singer-songwriter who has been sent by his father(Richard Ng) to Mainland China to stay while he improves his Mandarin. He discovers a wannabe rock band which catches his interests as does their dancer Yang Yin(Shu Qi) whose boyfriend Ping lu(Geng Le) is the lead singer of the rock group. When they go on a local tour "hole hopping" Michael tags along for the adventure but ends up falling in love with Yang.

The most interesting aspect of Beijing Rocks isn't actually the Rock scene, it's the different character's stories and backgrounds intertwining. Daniel Wu was likely cast as Michael Ng for not only his star power but also his similarity to the character. Michael is a Chinese-American who admits that his Mandarin is terrible, just like his English. He is often teased for his Hong Kong background and seems hesitant to embrace it. Michael appears to not really fit in to Beijing but after discovering the Rock band he sees something in them he can relate to.

Ping Lu is a much more complex character. He is an extremely rebellious rocker, to the point it could be holding back not only his band but also his relationship. In contrast he also has many similar traits that you would find in modern Chinese youth. Ping doesn't just want to play music for the sake of it, he wants to be different, he wants to stand out and he wants to deliver a message. Being a bit of a bad boy he is hard to feel sorry for, but credit to Geng Le, he manages to make you feel for him in some of the more sentimental scenes with his dad.

Shu Qi is loveable as usual. Delivering a sweet performance as Yang, a Taiwan native who has fell in love with a rockstar and believes they are bound to be together, even if her significant other doesn't feel quite as strong. Shu Qi really is a wonderful actress. This performance was still quite early on after her run in Cat III films, and she really got to exercise her acting chops in this role. Showing off some powerful emotive moments while also keeping you glued with her star screen presence.

Beijing Rocks has a road movie feel to it, which makes the story flow better than it probably should. The audio is handled superbly, and at times it almost feels like a rock musical while we endure full songs performed by the band. And I don't use endure lightly. Some of the songs are real stinkers! Not the most accessible music and you can understand why the band hasn't made it big. There is a great musical nostalgia moment during one heart warming scene when Yang has to take over the vocals for a song.

The setting of China is used effectively for the characters and story and it's actually refreshing that it's just used as another country without being soaked in political statements. There are plenty of Chinese landmarks and historical sites on display as we are shown these through the eyes of the tourist Michael and his trusty handycam.

Not without it's flaws, during the last 20 minutes the film changes it's course and the melodrama starts to seep in. The ending, although suited to the theme of the film, does seem a bit rushed and unsatisfactory. It feels like a different approach could have left the characters with a more gratifying conclusion.

None of this takes away from the positives of the film. It has great characters and a very personal and intimate story. Mabel Cheung is an extremely interesting director and her films are always entertaining even if somewhat unconventional.


See this if you like:
An Autumns Tale
City Of Glass
Eight Taels Of Gold

Couldn't actually find a trailer. But here is a MV for the film. Probably best not watching all the way through in case of spoilers. But it gives you a feel for the film.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

New Hong Kong DVD pickups for March!

New dvds! 
Picked up these Hong Kong films on eBay for a bargain price, surprisingly they are all still sealed!
Haven't seen any of them, so very intrigued to check them out.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Silent Voice Review 2016 Japan 聲の形

A Silent Voice 聲の形
Year: 2016
Director: Naoko Yamada
Writer: Reiko Yoshida
Cast: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yūki, Kenshō Ono, Yūki Kaneko, Yui Ishikawa, Megumi Han, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Mayu Matsuoka
Running Time: 129 minutes

One of the most emotionally charged anime films ever made.

A Silent Voice revolves around elementary school student delinquent Shoya Ishida. When a hearing impaired girl Shoko Nishimya transfers to the school, she starts to get bullied, especially from Ishida. Several years later he meets her again and sets himself on a path to redemption by trying to make it up to Nishimya and to help reconnect her with her old classmates that she never had the chance to befriend.

A Silent Voice is an anime adaptation of the manga of the same name, sometimes translated to The Shape of Voice. The film is produced by Kyoto Animation and directed by Naoko Yamada who brought us K-On! and Tamako Market. On release in Japan the film opened at #2, directly behind mega hit 'Your Name'.

Tackling many different subject matters such as bullying, suicide, redemption, friendship and love. A Silent Voice is one of the most ambitious anime films ever made, without using giant robots or time travel or any type of fantasy, it achieves it's praise by focusing just on raw human emotions. Bullying is the main subject of the first act. Often shown lightly and during montages, some of these scenes are actually surprisingly amusing. But you soon realise that this poor girl is being bullied, and it's really not funny at all. Any feeling of amusement you had quickly changes to anger as Nishimya is tormented by her classmates. It's hard to think of an anime film that brings out so much feelings of outrage while you watch on helplessly. And that is ASV's main achievement, it captures and plays on your emotions to the fullest.

Yamada directs her film is a polarizing way with many subtle story telling elements which really need your full attention. There are many characters whose stories aren't fully spelled out or explained. There are choices such as the characters communicating in sign language which don't have any subtitles or voice overs. This leaves the viewer trying to piece together what the characters are expressing and how they feel. A Silent Voice also looks like it's going to be a romance. The posters and trailers make it look like a romance drama, but that's not the case at all. It's there if you look. But it's not the theme of the film. These are all elements which have divided critics and fans with many giving it paradoxical reviews.

The films main shortcoming for me is the amount of underdeveloped characters. Without reading the manga, I can't compare the differences. But there are a few supporting characters who don't receive enough screen time or character development to the point you don't really understand their purpose. Apparently in the manga these characters are more developed, so one can assume these were trimmed for time constraints. But I couldn't help feel some of these characters could have been cut out completely. That being said, a real highlight is Tomohiro Nagatsuka, the loveable loser that Ishida befriends when his classmates isolate him. Nagatsuka offers some real comic relief to the sombre tone of the film. He seems hilariously overprotective of his friend which delivers some laugh out loud moments. And one scene with him smoking a french fry left my cinema audience roaring with laughter.

The animation style of the characters and backgrounds are completely stunning. Although there are animes out there with higher production values which might look technically better, A Silent Voice is bright and sparkling and beautiful to look at. The film's soundtrack is subtly perfect. It might open with a bang as My Generation by The Who kicks off the opening. The audio then transitions in to a lighter soundtrack with piano and soft musical scores which suits the underlying themes.

A Silent Voice is a must see for anime fans. It's not as rewarding a watch as recent emotional anime film hits like When Marnie Was There and Your Name, it's also not as accessible. But it does deliver something much deeper. It's one of the most powerful animations dealing with a subject that is more important than any film, life.


See this if you liked:
Your Name
Only Yesterday
Tamako Love Story

Coming to the UK from 15th March. Look for screening locations and dates on their official website here or check Anime Limited on Facebook.

I attended the screening of A Silent Voice at the Glasgow Film Festival on the 23rd February.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Headshot Review 2016 Indonesia

Year: 2016
Director: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto (The Mo Brothers)
Writer: Timo Tjahjanto
Cast: Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Chelsea Islan, David Hendrawan, Epy Kusnandar, Zack Lee, Sunny Pang, Very Tri Yulisman
Running Time: 118 minutes

If you take The Raid, multiply the violence by 100 and chuck in some Kill Bill and Jason Bourne. You get Headshot!

A young man with a head wound (Uwais) washes up on the shore of a small Indonesian village. He’s taken to a local hospital and cared for by kindly doctor Ailin (Chelsea Islan), who dubs him Ishmael after the book she’s reading, Moby Dick. When he wakes up two months later, he has no memory of his real name or past life. Ailin suggests they go to Jakarta to get the bullet fragments removed from his skull, and she goes ahead of him on a bus ride. However, gang members working for the sinister Lee (Sunny Pang) ambush the bus and kidnap Ailin to draw out “Ishmael”. Ishmael then goes on a rampage to rescue Ailin while flashes of his past life begin returning to his memory.

Directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto(Mo Brothers) this is their follow up release to their 2014 hit 'Killers'. The plot is relatively thin in Headshot, but it's enough to keep you emotionally invested. The story is actually more compelling than The Raid, although it is almost your typical damsel in distress plot. There's also a cheesy love story between the leads which surprisingly almost always works. They even manage to deliver some sentimental moments between Ishmael and Ailin which gives some key scenes a better emotional payoff.

The violence is on another level from any action film in years, it actually puts The Raid to shame. While Gareth Evan's action films have shock moments or "punchlines" during fight scenes to break it up, Headshot seems to have fight scenes to break up the shock moments and gore! No object is safe as bus seats, windows, bullets, chopsticks and even typewriters are used as weapons during extremely bloody brawls. There is definitely more than one moment that will leave you wincing in your seat! In fact, there is probably about 10!

The Mo Brothers use a different style of filming action from most Asian directors which has its positives and negatives. During the tightly choreographed fight scenes the handheld camera is often shaky or spinning around the actors which can actually mask how intricate the Silat fight scenes are and it doesn't let you digest every move you see. However, sometimes these unconventional camera techniques work in the action's favour to deliver exciting scenes such as Iko jumping out of a window while doing a somersault and the camera follows him by also doing a somersault...

Iko Uwais delivers a really good performance, taken out of his comfort zone he has some emotive acting to do this time which he performs effectively. Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman who are more commonly known as Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man from The Raid 2, show up as a pivotal part of the story and both deliver great fight scenes against Iko. Sunny Pang stars as the main villain Lee and although he manages to be chilling and intimidating, some of his dialogue scenes are odd as he talks in English and Iko replies in Indonesian. Chelsea Islan is decent as the love interest in her butter-wouldn't-melt role, and she even manages to get you rallying behind her when she is in distress.

Being an action film there are a fair few silly moments. The villains appear to have a very bad aim, even when they are close to an unarmed Iko Uwais they still manage to miss him. There are also some characters surviving punishment which doesn't seem humanely possible. The love story seems a little contrived at times with Ailin seemingly falling for Ishmael rather quickly and under odd circumstances. These can be overlooked though as the plot takes a backseat to the action!

This new Indonesian martial arts thriller can't quite match The Raid, but it does come incredibly close!
Will certainly entertain fans of the action and martial arts genres, although if you are squeamish be prepared to cover your eyes.


See this if you liked:
Merentau Warrior
The Raid

Headshot is getting a limited release in the UK and USA on March 3rd 2017. So hunt this one down!
If you are in Scotland, it will be shown at the Glasgow Film Theatre from the 3rd to the 9th of March.