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Wild Zero – Review February 16, 2010

Posted by Cello in Movie Reviews.
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I’ve been spotlighting a lot of the newer big budget movies as of late so I thought I’d bring it back and talk about Wild Zero, which I dug through the archieves to find and am now officially labeling it as B movie greatness. Let us start with how awesome the plot is, Ace helps Guitar Wolf defend the honor of Rock n Roll against an effeminate night club owner who insists cheeseball pop is the way of the future. For this, Guitar Wolf makes Ace a blood brother and gives him a magical whistle that he can blow and summon Guitar Wolf to help him anytime. As Ace hits the road on the way to the next Guitar Wolf gig, a meteorite crashes into the town of the next show, turning all inhabitants into zombies. It is now up to Ace and the members of Guitar Wolf to save humanity in the name of Rock and Roll. Fans of the rock ‘n’ roll movie genre will be pleased to see rock ‘n’ roll doing things you don’t see elsewhere; like taking down huge alien spaceships!

I loved every single second of this movie, from it’s outrageous dialougue, over the top bad special effects and downright fun of it all, I don’t think I can watch this movie enough. Despite being a zombie flick the gore in this film is kept to an incredibly minimum. Another thing that that stands out in the film are its characters. They are all underdeveloped but in their own way very colorful and interesting. Now, this is not an action film so don’t expect it to be one or you’ll be disappointed.

Wild Zero is just crazy and twisted but after watching the whole thing I’m a huge fan. I particularly liked the character of Makoto Inamiya who played a womanizing villain and Haruka Nakajo as a sexy bazooka wielding assassin. Shot in Thailand, the film’s army of the undead was reportedly played by Thai military staff and their families. The alien invasion aspect of the film is pretty much just a plot device to explain the zombies and all we ever see of them is their ships flying past.

Wild Zero is an incredibly silly movie, but if you like that sort of thing, you’ll get ninety minutes of enjoyment out of it. There’s no portion of the flick that hasn’t been done better somewhere else, but all the elements have never been juxtaposed quite like this before. The paranoia of 28 days later or the claustrophobia and social commentary of Romero’s films are entirely absent. Although the concept is ludicrous Wild Zero is major fun from beginning to end. The film is around 10 years old so it should be easy to track down.

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Legendary Assassin – Review February 15, 2010

Posted by Cello in Movie Reviews.
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We’ve all heard of the greats like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Donnie Yen, but there are always rising stars that pop up in films from time to time that usually float below the radar. Legendary Assassin looked really good and was somewhat like the hope of many Wu Jing fans, that this might be the next step for Wu to climb up the ladder into stardom. Legendary Assassin takes place on a Hong Kong island, kicking things off with Bo taking out a crime boss. His next step is getting off the island, but a Typhoon Signal No. 8 cuts off all transport to the mainland. So from there, he is basically on the run as people look for him.

As action movies go, Legendary Assassin is blazingly unimaginative, so it naturally falls upon the film’s star to carry the proceedings. I don’t think the actor was seasoned enough to take over the lead role. No doubt, the fight scenes here are well choreographed and brutal, especially the epic final battle. But, with only a 85 minute running time, we can only ask for so much. Legendary Assassin might not captivate many with its overall story. It might also turn off a few purest since they included the addition of wires to the fights. Actually it is an extensive use of wires, which are brought into action when performing even the smallest flying kick.  A few realistic moves of Wu would have been so much more impressive.

Where Legendary Assassin does score is with its set pieces and minor details. I’m also all for romance in my action films. The subplot played out nicely and I felt they wrapped it up very nicely. Ultimately, Legendary Assassin is easy to forgive but hard to completely appreciate, as it only scratches the surface of Wu Jing’s abilities. I would track down the fight scenes and leave it at that, as this film left a bad taste in my mouth given the paper thin plot and poor execution.

The film itself remains only recommendable to fans of the genre. There aren’t a whole lot of opponents in this movie that are in Wu’s league skill-wise – the most impressive one on one is with Tenky Tin, so we get a lot of action scenes where Bo is taking on multiple opponents. As I said before, the film may not offer anything new in terms of story, but I would still recommend it for its very well executed action sequences and Wu Jing’s presence alone. Wu Jing can really do a lot more than this. Hopefully a project will come along that will allow him to show that off.

Seven Swords – Review February 11, 2010

Posted by Cello in Movie Reviews.
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While the violence is well done and the General’s top soldiers are truly wicked and have great battle sequences, everything else is just way too standard. Yes, the great Donnie Yen is still in this film but it’s difficult to go into a lot of character development when you have 7 characters to fit into a two hour movie. Basically, seven unique swordsmen band together to save a village and its people from the evil General Fire-Wind. That’s about all you need to know about the plot. There’s also a subplot of love triangle between the main character and the Korean female love interest.

The Manchurians have taken over China and built the Qing Dynasty. The new government is banning the practice of Martial Arts fearing that the villages that practice it could rebel. This ban is far worst than you can imagine, the services of the Fire-Wind army are acquired to help make this law certain. The only thing the army cares about is money and they make a profit off eliminating entire villages that practice martial arts to make sure a martial artists never walks the earth again. The acting was really good, the camera angles were great, and though the picture was cool, it could’ve been better lit.

Donnie Yen fans rest assured, this is a very easy movie to obtain unlike a few of his other films. The fight choreography is nothing special, and the dialogue seems to lurch from one non sequitur to another. So, if you want to see a Donnie Yen showcase, you might want to look elsewhere. I won’t lie though, even though a lot of the fight scenes seem to fall short until the end of the film, the ending battle is truely awesome. You get to see all the swords in action and each person use there own skill and techniques that make them unique.

I guess looking back, my only complaint is it gives no time to love and character develpment. They exist in the movie but for a very short time. As a result, they can’t make me feel anything. The Director had the admirable goal of making us an emotional spectator, but because he’s burdened with placing Seven Protagonists behind the Seven Swords, he has only a handful of minutues to offer any kind of substantial backstory to each character. The movie Seven Swords is a really spectacular production with a really great story line and cast. It is just too bad I was let down by the execution, and if you know anything about films, it is all about execution. Perhaps we could get a sequel in the coming years, until then, I’d say you should pass on this unless you are an extreme Donnie Yen fan.

A Battle of Wits – Review February 10, 2010

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A Battle of Wits brings to the screen the story of a warrior during 370 BC known for his defensive skills who takes up the task of seeing to the protection of a city faced with superior enemy forces. This is a beautiful movie on a delicate and difficult subject. There are no bad guys and good guys. The philosiphies and principles behind what makes one decide to fight, kill and make war is discussed by the main protaganists in the movie.  The city-state of Liang is about to be overrun by the overwhelming forces of the kingdom of Zhao, who in turn are on their way to wage war on the kingdom of Yan in China’s Northeast. The city’s only hope lies in the arrival of a military contingent from the Mo-Tsu. However, when only man arrives morale begins to falter.

I can finally rejoice to the heavens for finally witnessing an Asian war picture that has a great plot as well. I’ve seen a few in my days but they are fairly few in between and I usually go months before seeing one executed properly. The typical pattern for historical dramas are gradually becoming CG spectaculars with heavier emphasis on showing off what technology can do, rather than making sure that the movie flows with a sturdy storyline. Battle of Wits is essentially a tale of two halves. The first half of the film depicts Ge Li’s arrival, rising influence, and initial clashes with Xiang Yanzhang’s army. The second half is where the film’s focus begins to waver. The movie takes it own time to develop the screenplay, and this may shun away some less patient viewers.

With a small population of only four thousand, City Liang was ruled by King Liang. Watching this I realized how much it has in common with Seven Samurai. The similarity that jumped out at me immediately was Ge Li is practically the same character as Kambei in Kurosawa’s masterpiece. Praise aside, there are of course, faults, that I can’t overlook. The dull browns and greys of the desert aren’t much to look at and the heavy use of the same colors for costuming and set design can make for a straining experience.

Those who bootleg off the internet shouldn’t worry about the proceeding but those looking to purchase, avoid the DVD like the plague and jump ship to blu-ray. The picture quality is a no brainer and looks gorgeous. All in all, this is a fine above average film and the attempt to inject some pathos into a largely mythological genre film is very welcome. Despite some mixed characterization and stylistic choices the film is worth picking up for its impressive battle sequences and assured treatment of the subject matter.

Initial D – Review February 9, 2010

Posted by Cello in Movie Reviews.
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There’s a fond place in my heart for Initial D. My first car in high school actually resembled the car the main character had in the original anime series. Thus, kicked off my initial interest in the world of car racing. While the anime stayed fairly close to the manga, this live action movie makes plenty character and plot changes. The storyline is basic but enjoyable, with the main characters getting a decent amount of screen time. However, what sets the movie apart is the cars! I am a car nut, and I love the way the cars, ranging from the RX-7 to the Trueno, were cleanly built and well crafted to fit the mold from the anime. Was it faithful to the anime or manga? I think the directors did very well with the film, capturing the geekiness of Takumi’s friends and the racing was just fun to watch.

I was intrigued as to how they would be able to film and tell this story, mostly because it has a massive original story, to encompass that into 2 hours is most difficult. I believe the way it turned is excellent considering they had to change the storyline slightly from the original to have appeal as a standalone film. One thing, that shouldn’t be a fault to the film itself is the dvd. I’m not sure if I’ll ever bother trying to watch this again. There are about 11 minutes of previews that you can’t skip and it was very irritating. Oh, and as for the movie itself, another thing that annoyed me was the language select. When watching foreign films, I prefer listening to the original language. This also wasn’t accessible. Movie was pretty good, but I would have doubts about buying this DVD and supporting this sort of forced advertising on a DVD you bought with your hard-earned money.

Also gone is the distinctive euro-beat dance soundtrack that turned Initial D’s anime into a real treat. Despite the cool origins for Takumi, he’s not a very compelling character, and his taciturn ways are as frustrating as they are supposedly cool. However, the drifting and camera techniques were really great. I was going in thinking the worse with no expectations. This definitely beats out Fast and the Furious in terms of car racing and drifting.

Aside from racing, and considering I didn’t spend anytime explaining the plot, there is a sub story. In between races, the script focuses on Takumi’s strained relationship with girlfriend Natsuki, who secretly engages in compensated dating. It doesn’t add much and you should only view this film for the slick racing scenes. Initial D possesses neither charm nor surprise, though it does manage to be better constructed than 90% of what comes out of Hong Kong these days. For big-budget summer fare, Initial D fits the bill quite nicely. It doesn’t challenge or truly involve, but it’s 110 minutes of slick racing fun. Thumbs slighty up.