Monday, 18 October 2010

'Paul' trailer beams down

Popping up all over the net today is the first trailer for the new Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movie Paul. Yes, Pegg & Frost have also headed stateside, independently of their once & future director Edgar Wright (whose Scott Pilgrim Vs The World ranks high on my films of the year); and whilst Shaun of the Dead brought zombies and Hot Fuzz brought gun-toting cops, this one brings a little sci-fi to the mix, as two British fanboys on their way to a US comic convention cross paths with a bona fide extra-terrestrial... called Paul.

The trailer doesn't give too much away, but given the pedigree of talent behind it (at the helm is Greg Mottola, director of Superbad) I don't think it's too unreasonable to anticipate comedy of the highest standard. And on the strength of what we see here, we might also expect a fair amount of shit going boom.

Roll on Spring 2011...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Age be damned: Nic Cage will 'Drive Angry'

I'm sure we all find ourselves asking a great deal in recent years: could Nicolas Cage be getting too old for this shit?

It's easy to forget what a left-field figure he started out as. Hollywood royalty as nephew to Francis Coppolla, he made his name through the likes of the Coens' Raising Arizona and David Lynch's Wild At Heart; movies with a decidedly less-than-mainstream bent. Sure, he'd do the occassional popcorn flick like Wings of the Apache (an oft-forgotten Top Gun with helicopters), but these were always balanced out with the edgier, weirder, more ununsual films. And yet, looking at his work from the past fifteen years or so, it becomes readily apparent that the balance has shifted. Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation et al. would seem to be the exception rather than the rule, with his main body of work being the blockbusting likes of The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, Gone In 60 Seconds, the National Treasure movies, Ghost Rider, Kick-Ass...

And then there's the small matter of that Wicker Man remake... which I still haven't seen so can't comment on.

But is any of this necessarily a problem? I don't think so. While the aforementioned movies vary somewhat in quality (Gone In 60 Seconds and Ghost Rider are the only ones I really don't like; and I must confess that, in spite of its inherent crappiness, I love National Treasure), one thing is apparent: Nic Cage chose to do them for the fun of it. Clearly this is a man who enjoys what he does for a living, or surely he wouldn't do so much of it. I rather doubt he's in it just for the money; it's fair to assume he's long since made enough to never have to work again. I also rather doubt he's out for the kudos, because... well... look at some of the choices he's made.

What's inspiring about Cage is the sense that he really doesn't give a shit. If a project tickles his fancy, he takes it on. If it doesn't turn out great; well, soon enough he's taking on another. Done, done, onto the next one.

Does Drive Angry look ridiculous? You're darn tootin' it does. Cage is a scar-faced wiry haired condemned soul going AWOL from hell on a personal quest for revenge, with a crazy-arse gun and a muscle car. Sitting at his side is Amber Heard; improbably sexy, young enough to be his daughter. There's a great potential here for the world at large to laugh and shake its head at this sight, accuse Cage of acting out a textbook midlife crisis. But, once again - I strongly suspect he doesn't give a shit. Because he sure looks like he's having a good time.

And damned if Drive Angry doesn't look like it'll be a good time too. Demonic vengeance, fast driving, a hot chick - maybe this'll be the film Ghost Rider should have been...

Drive Angry 3D : bande annonce #1 VO
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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

DVD review - 'Connected'

For Grace Wong (Barbie Hsu), what starts out like an average ordinary weekday morning quickly turns into a waking nightmare. Shortly after dropping off her daughter at school, she finds herself rammed off the road, forcibly removed from her car and kidnapped by a bunch of unsavoury criminal types lead by a silver-haired snake in traffic cop shades, polo neck and beret. No explanation is given for the abduction other than that the bad guys want her brother, and are prepared to do the unspeakable to make him co-operate. But there's one thing the kidnappers didn't count on: Grace is an electronics whizz, and in the room in which she is incarcerated she is able to re-assemble the shattered remains of a telephone and get a signal out to a random telephone number. The number she happens to reach is the mobile phone of Bob (Louis Koo), a down-on-his-luck single dad with a tendency to screw things up. Naturally on hearing a total stranger beg for help he's inclined to dismiss it as a prank call, but once circumstances convince him otherwise, Bob realises it's time to put his screwing-up days behind him and, for once in his life, make good on a promise.

In case you're thinking any of this sounds at all familiar, you're right - this story has been told on film before, in David R Ellis' Cellular. But, in what the beer adverts of old would say makes a refreshing change, Connected is a rare instance of a Hollywood product being remade by Hong Kong filmmakers, as opposed to the more typical instance of Hollywood remaking every cult hit from overseas. With only a few minor alterations, Benny Chan's film follows the structure of Ellis' original pretty closely, and ultimately winds up every bit as entertaining a potboiler. In fact, all things considered, Chan's may be the stronger film.

The key improvement is almost certainly the casting of the central role. The unwitting hero of Cellular was a college boy, a bit of a slacker but undeniably buff, pretty and charismatic; thankfully Ellis and New Line were smart enough to cast the profoundly likeable and talented Chris Evans, otherwise the character might have wound up grating indeed. Shrewdly, Louis Koo's Bob is a very different guy: an unkempt, uncharismatic thirtysomething Joe Bloggs, divorced, stuck in a dead-end job, his relationship with his son rapidly going down the drain. As such, when this long-time loser decides it's time to stand up and fight for what's right, his actions carry that much more resonance, and it all serves to make the character that much easier to relate to. An HK film this may be, but it's no wire-fu fightfest or heroic bloodshed gun ballet; Bob is just an ordinary guy doing what he can, and Koo does a great job.

Also notably different is the abductee: in many respects a far cry from Kim Basinger's married, middle-aged high school science teacher, Barbie Hsu's Grace is a younger, widowed single mother and a professional engineer of some sort. In making both her and Bob single parents of similar age, one might anticipate hints of romantic tension between the two; another potential motivator for his willingness to help. But in truth this is barely developed; outside of a fairly throwaway moment towards the end there is little or no indication of romantic possibility between them. In any case, Hsu is given as little to do as Basinger was, but as with her predecessor she manages to do a good enough job with what is given to her.

Then we have Nick Cheung and Liu Ye taking over the roles of William H Macy's good cop and Jason Statham's bad cop respectively. Cheung doesn't bring quite the same unassuming, quasi-Colombo quality that Macy brought to it, but gives a nicely understated turn nonetheless; much like Koo, he's not a hero, just a guy doing his job. At the other end of the spectrum in every sense is Ye. Dressed like a 70's hitman and exuding rehearsed menace every moment he's on screen, it's a highly mannered performance that's within spitting distance of camp; all good fun, but rather breaks the verisimilitude. However, for all his excess Ye is nowhere near as bothersome as the horrendously OTT American villians. What is it with English speaking characters in HK movies? Why do they always aim for Charles Bronson but come off more Widow Twankey? 

Naturally, Cheung and Fan also handle the lion's share of the ass-kicking, and while as previously stated this isn't your typical flying fists HK action flick, it's still a slick, stylised animal with some very nice action sequences, in particular the airport-based final showdown and a great car chase that might challenge even The Bourne Identity for the most outrageous stunts pulled in an unlikely choice of automobile.

While it's not sufficiently different to Cellular to warrant massive excitement, Connected is nonetheless a hugely enjoyable thriller that's well worth a watch, and as good a representation as any as to why Benny Chan is one of the most celebrated directors working in China today. (On which note, be on the lookout for a further Benny Chan review soon here at Ka-Boomski, as I'll soon be taking a well overdue look at his recent Region 2 DVD release Invisible Target.)

Connected is available now on Region 2 from Cine-Asia; to order from Amazon UK, click here. Alternatively for the Region 1 release, click here. 

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Jet Li is LEGEND - in case you didn't know.

Hello there old chums - first off, an apology for the somewhat lengthy silence here at Ka-Boomski. Basically, I've been busy. Got an MA to complete, other sites to write for, and have not left enough time for my beloved action blog, still in its infancy. Not the most nuturing parental approach, I know. Plus - basically there hasn't been too much newsworthy stuff on the action front of late. Yes, there was The A-Team, but I was so underwhelmed by that I couldn't bring myself to write it up. Not a disaster, but not the half the movie it might have been. Yawn.

Anyway, to the matter at hand; just as Jet Li is about to provide the Asian representation in the testosterone-dripping ensemble set to blow the big screen to smithereens in The Expendables (for which you can expect a review soon), Cine-Asia have decided to provide us with a good reminder as to why Jet belongs alongside those western action legends. (And Randy Couture and Terry Crews.) The Legend of Fong Sai-yuk (or simply The Legend) is one of the movies that really cemented Jet in the global consciousness as an iconic Chinese martial arts superstar, on a par with Bruce and Jackie. On top of which, it showed director/choreographer Corey Yuen at the height of his powers, paving the way for a career that would take him to Hollywood. (Disappointed the trailer below didn't see fit to mention DOA: Dead or Alive, though...)

Without further ado, synopsis & trailer:

Set in China's Ching Dynasty, The Legend of Fong Sai-yuk tells the story of a ruthless emperor who enslaves his people, and persecutes a courageous revolutionary group that is mobilizing to destroy his powerful regime. When young folk hero Fong Sai-yuk (Jet Li) discovers that his own father is a freedom fighter who has been targeted for retribution, he embarks on a heroic quest for justice that will unite his people and create a legend that will never be forgotten.

Special Features include: audio commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan; Hit Hard And Fly High – an exclusive interview with director and legendary Hollywood fight choreographer Corey Yuen-kwai; The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword – an exclusive interview with writer Jeff Lau; Dolby Digital Cantonese 2.0 and English 5.1 audio options; optional English subtitles.

The Legend Of Fong Sai-yuk (15) is released on DVD (£15.99) by Cine Asia on 6th September 2010.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

From Asgard to New Mexico - and beyond! SDCC 'Thor' trailer!

UPDATE: oh bugger, it's gone! Oh well, if you caught it within the few hours it was there, hope you enjoyed it.

Delayed in posting this as I suspected the clip, assembled for last week's San Diego Comic Con (which  - being in England - I missed, unsurprisingly), was unofficial and would be promptly deleted from the web. But as that doesn't seem to be the case just yet - heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Thor!

I like the look of it. It seems to be following on in much the same style as the existing Avengers universe movies, and the sidestep into fantasy land doesn't look like too great a leap.

But damn it all, they still should have cast Brian Blessed as Odin.

Click here for my further musings on what I'm hoping Thor will deliver.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Live la vida loca with the red-band 'Machete' trailer

Less than two months to wait (in the US, at least) for the long-awaited feature length version of the fake trailer from Grindhouse. Will the wait have been worth it?

On this evidence... quite possibly.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

God bless Youtube. It's the 160 Greatest Arnie Quotes.

Not my handiwork; just brought a smile to my face, as it should anyone who appreciates Arnie's pre-Governator days. Enjoy.

UK trailer for 'Sword With No Name'

Just got word of this new one coming to DVD from Cine-Asia:

"A young woman of noble birth embarks on a dangerous cross-country journey, where she encounters an infamous bounty-hunter. Honour-bound, he becomes her protector and against all the odds they fall in love. A few years later, to fulfill a sacred promise, she must enter the royal court and ascend to the throne as Empress, leaving her love behind. However, when aggressive Japanese forces gather against her nation, the bounty hunter will once again stand by her side as a devoted bodyguard. As the conflict escalates to all-out war, her irrepressible leadership will sustain her people and give them the hope of victory. Tragically, as her reputation spreads, she will become a target for assassination, but one man's courage will make all the difference..."

I must confess that, despite the persausive powers of Voice Over Guy, this doesn't look like much of "an epic spectacle of groundbreaking action" to me - in fact, it all looks a bit hackneyed. But I shall reserve judgement.

Sword With No Name comes to Region 2 DVD and Blu-Ray on 20th September. Look out for my review.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Marvel Musings #2: the gathering storm of 'Thor'

The last month or so has seen a steady leak of new images from Kenneth Branagh's Thor come spilling onto the internet, and the reaction has been, at best, mixed. Many are concerned that it all looks a bit too camp. The words Flash Gordon have been invoked, as a negative. The words Mary Shelley's Frankenstein have been invoked also, by those doubting the suitability of the director.

Here, as y'all Americans like to say, is my two cents.

What exactly should we be expecting from a superhero movie about Norse Gods? The Dark Knight?

Personally - I love that this movie looks gaudy and outlandish. I love that it looks about as rooted in reality as The Care Bears Movie. And just look at Anthony Hopkins in the picture below; that wild, pirate-ish expression that suggests he might actually be having fun here in a way he hasn't since his gloriously hammy Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's Dracula. 

(Though I still wish Brian Blessed had been cast as Odin. Truly, no man is more fit to portray the king of the Gods than he; it pains me to my guts that two movies were released in the past year that featured Zeus, and Blessed didn't get the part in either of them. Yes, the Flash Gordon comparison is no negative in my book.)

I realise that a lot of comic lovers are long since fed up with how the uninitiated tend to assume the medium to be tacky, silly and only fit for children. As such, the likes of Nolan's Batman films and Snyder's Watchmen have offered a fair amount of vindication, enabling fanboys worldwide to proclaim "see, comic book movies can be sophisticated!" much in the manner of Charley Brewster screaming about Dracula being a "truly great book" in Fright Night 2. However, while I don't want to badmouth Nolan's films (Snyder's I could say a few less than favourable words about, but some other time), I do occasionally wonder if they may have done more harm than good, as now a great many people - most worryingly the money men - assume that to be successful a comic book movie must be grittily realistic. And this simply isn't the case.

Ang Lee's Hulk demonstrated how comic book realism and kitchen sink realism can make for awkward bedfellows indeed. I think the main problem with Lee's film is that it tried to deny the inherent absurdity of the premise and play the angry green giant as seriously as possible. Subsequently, it all just came off all the sillier, especially by the absurdly over the top finale. Far better to embrace the ridiculousness from the get-go, then the movie and the audience will be on the same page immediately.

This is why Branagh is a great choice for Thor; he understands melodrama. Watch almost any of his work as an actor. By contemporary standards, he's a total cornball, screaming and flailing and carrying on in that archly theatrical fashion. (As I write this, I've just seen that Branagh may be set to portray Laurence Olivier, which makes perfect sense as Olivier was much the same in his approach.) This same ethos follows through in his directing, too. From his numerous Shakespeare movies, he's well accustomed to having his cast spit forth language that sounds completely unnatural to modern ears. But even in his non-Shakespearean work - movies like Dead Again and, yes, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - everything plays out as though the script was written entirely in block capitals, from the volume of the actors to the swoop of the camera to the bombast of the soundtrack. Thor needs this. It's about ancient Norse Gods coming to modern day America, for crying out loud.

(Incidentally, Devin Faraci wrote a great piece about this very subject last year entitled The Tyranny of Realism. Well worth a read.)

A major concern of many seems to be how comfortably the magical universe of Thor will fit with the more material world of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and soon Captain America. All I can say is: come on now, people, it's all make-believe. A guy in a robotic suit, a guy who turns into a green giant, a guy who happens to be the God of Thunder; no matter how you play it, none of it is feasible in the real world, so why worry? Personally, I welcome the prospect of a comic book movie that is unabashedly free of the trappings of reality. I hope it's every bit as brash and excessive as these early stills suggest. Will the result be a film that cannot be taken seriously? Not necessarily. It simply means it will be watched in a different way; much in the way Faraci refers to, the way we watch the likes of The Wizard of Oz. Once we accept the movie on its own terms, we allow ourselves to be sucked into that world. There will be those who take exception to this. I know plenty of people who couldn't get past the protagonists being able to fly in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and subsequently couldn't fully embrace the movie. But what's the alternative? Movies like Troy, King Arthur and by all accounts this year's Robin Hood; movies which strip away the very things that make the legends what they are, winding up soulless and frigid. To hell with that. Give me Excalibur any day. Give me Beowulf. Give me Sin City. Once again, give me Flash Gordon.

And yes, give me Thor.

And one other thing. They sure as shit better get Led Zeppellin's Immigrant Song on the soundtrack. Know what I'm saying? Just as Iron Man needed the Black Sabbath classic of the same name, Thor needs Robert Plant's viking war cry: "Hammer of the Gods... Valhalla, I am coming..."

That's right, asshole. Dolph Lundgren is 'The Killing Machine.'

I have but two words: FUCK. YEAH.

Here's the deal. I've kinda got a thing about Dolph Lundgren. I'm not ashamed to admit it. The man affects me. As such, even though I've pretty much missed any of the movies he's made in the last decade or so, this trailer rocks my world.

I love the title alone; the way 'Dolph Lundgren is' seems to be part of it, as well it should be. I love the knowing pun in the 'this man is not expendable' tagline. I love that this dude, well into his fifties, looks to be kicking ass even harder than he did twenty five years ago. I love... shit, I'll just say it, I love me some Dolph.

Just in case you need further persausion, here's the synopsis:

To his friends, family and colleagues, Edward Genn (Lundgren) is an ordinary man, a divorced father with a steady job working for an investment company. However, to others Genn is known as Icarus, a ruthless killing machine and former US sleeper agent once based in the Soviet Empire. Determined to break away and leave his dark past behind, Genn has started over with a new identity, but he soon learns you can only escape your past for so long.

When an unexpected incident in Hong Kong results in Icarus’ cover being blown, past and present collide and the one-time assassin realizes he is now the target. Worse, the people that want him dead will stop at nothing to get to him and that means going after those he cares about most—his wife and daughter.
With his life at stake, Icarus is forced to face the demons of his past in order to protect the loved ones in his present. He must fight to save the only thing he’s ever done right in his life by uncovering those who are after him and protecting his family before it’s too late.
Dolph Lundgren Is The Killing Machine comes to Region 2 DVD and Blu Ray on 16th August, courtesy of Anchor Bay. Just you try and stop me from reviewing it.

Once more - FUCK. YEAH.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Review - 'Predators'

This, without a doubt, is the second best Predator movie there has been to date. To a point, that's all it needed to be...

Does it blow open the story universe and flesh out the series mythology? No. Does it redefine the notion of what a Predator movie is? Again, no. But it's abundantly clear from the get-go that this was never the intention. By plunging an ethnically diverse bunch of gruff manly men and a tough Latina into a thick and hot jungle, and bringing them to the gradual realisation that they are being hunted, Nimrod Antal's film immediately evokes John McTiernan's classic original. However, it also seems to demand the viewer forget all about the subsequent Predator films (a little unfair on the not-that-bad Predator 2, but perhaps fair enough on the Alien Vs Predator duo). As was demonstrated by Superman Returns, such an approach doesn't always pay off.  If the filmmakers are too reverential to the earlier movie, the new movie runs the risk of failing to find an identity of its own. On first viewing, I rather feel that Predators has failed to avoid that pitfall, but even so it's agreeable enough as a bit of crash-bang-wallop entertainment.

Clearly the intent was also to craft a stand-alone movie, accessible to youngsters unfamiliar with the series (and yes, such creatures exist, which should of course make the rest of us feel old). There are nods aplenty to the original, from the first gun fired to the song that plays over the end titles, but none of it is conveyed in too showy a fashion, never does it descend into smug in-jokery. No one calls a Predator an ugly motherfucker, nor remarks that if it bleeds they can kill it, nor urges anyone to get to the chopper. Unfortunately, the lines that are delivered are nowhere near as memorable as those that were spat forth like tobacco from the mouths of the original's ensemble. And the next place where this movie seeks to stand up against the original but falls short - the ensemble themselves. They're simply nowhere near as engaging. Given the setup, the group was never going to have the same dynamic - Arnie's team were longtime buddies, whereas Adrien Brody's motley crew are total strangers. And, alas, we never quite get to know these guys that well. Brody and Alice Braga (both giving strong performances) take the spotlight so much, it's easy to forget the others are even there a lot of the time. The much lauded, supposedly secret appearance of Laurence Fishburne midway through doesn't bring a great deal to the table either.

Also, for a movie called Predators - a title which obviously evokes Aliens, a movie notable for its large number of antagonists - you'd be forgiven for expecting a few more of the big bad extra-terrestrial hunters. Alas, there are but a paltry few, not counting the addition of the ravenous, warthog-like creatures used as bloodhounds in one scene; credit where it's due, that may sound like an idiotic device worthy of a Stephen Sommers movie, but it actually works okay here. Less endearing to my mind is the new lead Predator with a shark-like lower jaw and CG red eyes. I get why every successive movie has revised the creature design - it's fair to assume that the features of the species would vary just as they do with us humans, I suppose - but all it ever really does is make the viewer pine for more of the original. Or maybe that's just me.

The ending may leave things wide open for a sequel, but I can't help but doubt whether the demand will be there. The second best Predator film it may be, but there's still only one truly great Predator movie. Yes, in many respects this really is Superman Returns all over again; all concerned clearly have their hearts in the right place, and have done their best to illustrate their love and respect for the original, but the result is still a pale shadow of what went before, and it's hard to see the new movie being as well loved and remembered two years from now as the original remains over two decades later. Still, for anyone who isn't too invested in the first film, it's an enjoyable enough way to kill a couple of hours.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Happy Birthday Sylvester Stallone!

This man is sixty four years old. And this is what he looks like NOW.

Well, for what it's worth Mr Stallone, Ka-Boomski! wishes you a happy birthday. And while my 80's action-reared heart may sink a little to learn The Expendables has been trimmed to get a 15 (as if Predators getting a 15 wasn't enough?! Whatever happened to the glorious 18 certificate carnage of old?!), I still thank you, Mr Stallone, for all you have done and continue to do for high-octane shoot-'em-up/beat-'em-up/blow-'em-up movies. Many happy returns.

(And hey, I can't give you too hard a time about The Expendables being a 15. Cliffhanger and Demolition Man were the first 15 movies I saw at the cinema, and I love those to this day.)

A few of the man's greatest moments:


Rambo: First Blood Part II


Tango & Cash

Demolition Man

John Rambo/Rambo IV/Rambo

'DOA: Dead Or Alive.' Yes, I love it.

This - without question my most frivolous Ka-Boomski! entry to date - is a semi-apology. A while back at B Through Z, I wrote a piece entitled Everybody Hates Paul, in which I lamented over the many failings of Paul WS Anderson. There was a vague passing reference to DOA: Dead Or Alive, which he co-produced. I dismissed it as "middle of the road." BTZ editor Jamie blasted my indifference, insisting "DOA rules."

I thought nothing of it for all this time, then ITV1 showed it last Friday night. And I watched. And...

Yes. DOA really does rule.

I'm not sure there's much else that really needs to be said on the matter. So...

No - there really isn't anything else that needs to said, is there? DOA... a modern masterpiece.