Double Feature: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) & Line Walker (2016)

I’m having this sudden urge to get through these Asian films. Crazy Rich Asians kind of counts, I guess which happens to be one of the double feature picks and just for the comedy element, I paired it up with Line Walker which is something of a crime action thriller with comedy elements. Let’s check it out!

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii

This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. – IMDB

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan (which I haven’t read), Crazy Rich Asians is romantic comedy with a really great cast. The movie itself should be looked at from two parts: Romance and Comedy. The romantic parts are exactly funny and actually to me, they are a bit weak whereas the comedy elements is what stands out. Of course, comedy is also very subjective so the best way may be to see whether the many comedians involved in this are ones that you normally enjoy or the cast itself. Not to mention, Crazy Rich Asians highlights the beauty of Singapore so much from the food to the scenery and captures the upper class society glamor as well as the Asian prejudices between each other whether its Asian-born or American-born which brings in the East versus West differences/culture clash.

Looking at the cast, its absolutely stunning. Its the first time watching Constance Wu for myself and while I have certain issues with her, she is rather decent in capturing that roles especially in the beginning and the ending parts where her character Rachel really gets a nice development. I can’t say her chemistry or the focus on the romance between her and Henry Golding’s character stands out a lot but her interaction with some of the other characters especially Peik Lin played by Awkwafina is absolutely awesome. Awkwafina carries a good part of the film every time she shows up especially when she first talks about the Youngs and how rich they are. Hands down my favorite part. Comedians involved have Ken Jeong, Ronny Chieng and I think Jimmy O.Yang also counts (even though I haven’t seen any stand-up shows of his). They each have very different types of character bringing in a different sort of comedy and they do a decent job. However, while not there for the comedy, Michelle Yeoh is fantastic and a stunning actress that I love to watch on screen. This role seems a little different from what I’ve seen of hers before however she still delivers.

I was a little hesitant to watch Crazy Rich Asians but I’m pretty happy that I did. There’s a lot to love about it. The way that its filmed and the little execution that they use even from the first scene that highlights how rich the Youngs are to the end where Rachel shows how she isn’t how the family sees her as despite where she grew up. Overall, its a fun time and earned quite a few good laughs even if the romantic elements were fairly flat.

Line Walker (2016)

Director: Jazz Boon

Cast: Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng, Charmaine Sheh, Shiu Hung Hui, Moses Chan

Several cops went undercover. Due to some issues, all undercover identities were wiped clean from the police database. – IMDB

Done as a spin-off from the Hong Kong TV series of the same name (that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet but recently found uploaded to Youtube so will catch up very soon), Line Walker is something of a comedy crime thriller. For what I see, it doesn’t require a whole lot of knowledge of the actual series to understand but its a little loopy as well as the network of undercover cops is quite extensive as the plot reveals itself throughout. In reality, the biggest issue is what the movie wants to be. At times, its comedic and over the top and then it will change in the next scene to a crime thriller serious sequence. It makes the film feel out of balance and maybe even disjointed. The moving parts of everything work as an individual sequence but together, it just doesn’t seem to work that well.

The highlight of Line Walker definitely has to be the stellar cast. With some names like Charmaine Sheh and Moses Chan, the latter in a cameo role rather popular names in Hong Kong series and bigger movie thriller actors like Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng and Shiu Hung Hui, its full of renowned actors who are well-known for their work in movies in similar genre. In reality, its quite a great thing to see Charmain Sheh being the only female lead here and paired up with Francis Ng as one side as the obvious undercover pairing and an undefined relationship between the two while having the much more intriguing pairing between Nick Cheung and Louis Koo’s characters as its a question about which one of them is actually an undercover cop that has lost his file and police status in the police system. Its the main focus for these two as they start questioning each other’s loyalty. At the same time, the movie is full of undercovers as one after the other gets revealed. The standout definitely has to go to Louis Koo and Nick Cheung’s characters as they do bring in the most balanced roles as well as their little bit of dark/sarcastic humor dialogue injected in the performance. It contrasts that of Charmaine Sheh and Francis Ng which adds a more comedic element.

Line Walker is an odd one. The cast makes it worth a watch but the script and the execution of the whole undercover and double crossing and whatnot in the crime world of who is on which side and all the undercover cops that scatter over the crime world almost feels like it doesn’t make that much sense. There are some clever bits but overall, it feels like the movie does fall short. On the other hand, its given me the boost to go catch up with the TV series since its garnered quite a bit of popularity.

Netflix A-Z: Z Storm (2014)

After some thought, I decided that the best way to end the first round of Netflix A-Z is with some Hong Kong crime thrillers.  Hong Kong movies are the key to what made me fall in love with movies in the first place.  While a ton of you were watching all those popular classics, a good part of my youth was watching Chinese films.  This one holds a pretty outstanding cast (although I didn’t know anything about it before I started it up).  There’s been so many thrillers in Hong Kong movies lately and a few of them in the past few years have “storm” in their title that I’m honestly a little confused. Still, lets check out this one!

Z Storm (2014)

Z Storm

Director: David Lam

Cast: Louis Koo, Ka Tung Lam, Dada Chan, Michael Wong, Janelle Sing, Hoi-Pang Lo, Stephen Au, Siu-Fai Cheung, Ying Kwan Lok, Kai Chi Liu, Alfred Cheung

Hong Kong Police force govern the law.  Their gatekeepers are an outsider group that oversees and stops any corruption called ICAC.  When the CCB (Commerical Crime Bureau) go on an investigation in a leading accounting firm, they come up empty-handed even though it came from a reliable source.  Their team leader is Officer Wong Man Bin (Ka Tung Lam).  Catching wind of this from the former source, the ICAC lead by William (Louis Koo) launch an investigation despite their unwelcome presence with the CCB.  Their investigation proves to be hard to follow as their leads start coming to dead ends continuously.  When an unknown turn of events happen, they learn that there is a deeper story here.  Wong and a famous lawyer Malcolm Wu (Michael Wong) are part of a bigger circle run by a mysterious Z and their Z hedge fund, who is going to take millions and millions of the civilians money for investments when it launches in six days may actually be a financial fraud.  However, the Hong Kong officials have set a time limit. In the six days, they must find concrete evidence to support their theory in order to stop Z hedge funds launch, if not, there is nothing they can do anymore.  Its a race against time? Can they do it?

Z Storm

 I love Hong Kong films and honestly, I’m pretty forgiving for it.  The reason being that Hong Kong sometimes will have their surprises that they whip out once in a while that turn out to be total gems.  They always have that potential but the industry always forgets that they can do that and fall into their normal tropes.  It makes the story predictable and for a thriller, offers less thrills and more plot holes.  Z Storm definitely is a generic thriller.  I guessed the dialogue before it was said and mostly figured out how it was going to end.  Story-wise, Z Storm could be much better.  Z stands for Zoro (no, that isn’t a spelling mistake) but its what Z stands for in the Z hedge fund whose mystery man is also nicknamed Zoro.  Cheesy enough for you? I’m just going to come out and say it right away what I thought made this movie even worse than having a flawed plot hole that tried to put in some typical girl drama (which I thought wasn’t particularly necessary) but the fact that they ended it deliberately trying to milk a sequel.  I never particularly like movies like that and on top of that, they ended with some really creepy normal day lives shots.

Z Storm

BUT, despite all its storytelling flaws, Z Storm’s strength is in its cast.  Many of you might not know unless you are familiar with the TVB (Hong Kong TV Broadcasting Channel) drama series but in 1997, Louis Koo did a series called I Can’t Accept Corruption (Get it? ICAC?).  You got it.  That year, he came back strong (physically) and tanned his skin, buffed up and changed him image from the weak pale Hong Kong boy that he was before and got cast into this series.  He played an agent working for ICAC and I loved that show for many reasons.  One of them, being him and his acting.  Watching Z Storm was like he was taking that role again but with a more mature take on it. Nostalgia might be a culprit here.  And the fact that if I had a Hong Kong citizenship, my dream has always been to be in ICAC. It surprises a lot of people when I say it but hey, its a dream.  It can be as huge (and stupid) as I’d like it to be 😉

Z Storm

He’s not the only one that deserves applause.  Michael Wong is fantastic as Malcolm Wu.  He’s always been a good guy.  The top boss in the Hong Kong Police and always the all around good guy but this time, he turns it around and becomes a greedy and deceiving hot shot lawyer and he even swears on screen and says “b*tch”.  Its always great to see actors embrace other roles and switch it up.  But sometimes, you find their roles and excel at them.  That person is our CCB dirty cop Wong played by Ka Tung Lam.  I believe it was in Gen-X Cop back in 1999 that Ka Tung Lam took on his first bad guy role and man, did I want to punch him in the face while being completely dazzled that he could do that after playing lame, weak romance drama series characters.  From then on, he went from small roles to Infernal Affairs and then look at him now, one of the strongest bad guy roles I’ve seen him in.  One that made me love how bad he was but want to really hurt his character for all the horrible things he did. Its not only that. Z Storm carries a strong supporting cast with some actors that have been out of the business for a long time.  Alfred Cheung is the man I have in mind. While you have some more popular secondary character roles like Hoi Pang Lo, Stephan Au, Siu-Fai Cheung and Kai Chi Liu.  They are typical in many Hong Kong thrillers and action (even comedy).

z storm

Overall, Z Storm lacks in a concrete story line.  It does have its thrills but not enough to make you be blown away with its plot.  However, what it does lose in plot, it makes up for with an outstanding cast that breathes the needed energy and dynamic needed for each of their roles.  That includes a perfectly cast leads from Louis Koo, Ka Tung Lam and Malcolm Wu all the way down to their supporting and secondary characters.  Nostalgia definitely played a part in my love for this premise and while I dislike them using this film to build up a sequel, I do appreciate the motivation of the story itself even if it was executed poorly.

First round of Netflix A-Z is successfully completely!
If you do have any obscure movies, you’d like me to draft up in the second round, please suggest them!
Remember that I use Netflix Canada so I may not have the extensive selection you have in US. 
Thanks so much for the great response to this series! It’ll be returning in January 2016! 🙂

Netflix A-Z: X (2011)

You don’t even want to know how hard it is to find a movie starting with X. So, I went with the most basic one.  X has a compelling poster, at the very least.  I didn’t know anything about it.  This is about as random as they get.  X does have a lot of nudity with the content its handling so if that’s not your sort of thing, then please refrain.

Let’s go!

X: The Night of Vengeance (2011)

x night of vengeance

Director: Jon Hewitt

Cast: Viva Bianca, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Stephen Williams, Eamon Farren, Belinda McClory, Freya Tingley

A jaded call-girl. A fledgling hooker. The night from hell.-IMDB

Okay, where to start with this one? X starts off with Holly (the call girl) who wants to retire to Paris secretly and lead a new life. She has one more day of this call girl thing where she starts the day doing a little sex act for some classy rich ladies and then meets up with one of her most committed clients (who wants to take her away and leave his family) and ends with a threesome. Parallel to her story, in the evening a 17 year old Shay runs away from home and ends up selling her hand job skills (or more) for money when she ends up in Sydney (I think).  As she ventures in this new city and tries to just make money on the go, it turns out to be a hard time falling in a lot of bad situations until she ends up getting in on part of Holly’s threesome in a very random situation. That’s when they cross paths and soon after, end up running for their lives.

x 2011

Feeling the thrills yet? I didn’t.  I didn’t really hate the movie.  It wasn’t bad but I didn’t care much for the characters either.  There was a lot of nudity and sex and I don’t even mind that much.  I mean, I did do like one or two posts called 3some reviews last year.  This is really supposed to be right up my alley.  Except, painting a tense night with strangers is hard. The characters didn’t really have much development, and the story was so predictable.  You can see the twist coming a hundred miles away.  And that villain was goofy. He’d go “gotcha” every time and you know they are going to find a way to escape…again.

x 2011

But, this one did have some redeeming qualities.  I mean, I really liked the guy here.  He had like 10 minutes in the entire movie and somehow became an influencing factor to Shay.  The character is played by an Eamon Farren who looks incredibly familiar but I don’t think I’ve seen anything with him.  He was a decent character if only they built on him a little. Forcing a thriller out of corrupted cops doesn’t really do it all the time. Aside from that, there was Freya Tingley who was also a minor character that had even less screen time and she was in the Netflix series Hemlock Grove int he first season and I really like her quite a bit too. That’s not saying that the two leads aren’t good.  They did well with what they had, except the story was just really formulaic.  Plus, the thrillers that don’t work is when you don’t really care if your leads get away or not. Its not for a lack of trying too.  We had one or two scenes where we dive a little deeper in the characters of Shay and Holly but nothing ever big enough that latches on.

x 2011

Overall, it does sound like I disliked this movie.  Point is, I’m pretty indifferent and yet something made me want to watch it again so I did.  I didn’t feel anymore but other than good supporting characters and decent leading ladies, the setting isn’t bad and some atmosphere’s are captured really well.  In the whole erotic scenes here (and there was a few), it worked pretty good.  In the end, its really the script and the dialogue that doesn’t add up.  Its predictable and not really enough thrills.  I’m not exactly sure if the villain was meant to be funny in the sense that he reacts in a certain way and he just hates on women particularly so much.  Some things in the story just didn’t add up and I guess that is what frustrates me because I can see this being a much better movie and yet, it didn’t quite work for me. I’m pretty sure I’ll forget about it in a few days.  I mean, I already had to go back and check the names when writing this up.  I guess that says something, right?

Have you seen X? Do you like erotic/crime thrillers (not sure where it categorizes itself)?

Fantasia Fest 2015: Kung Fu Killer (2014)

Fantasia Festival is one of the times of year that I love. As mentioned before, 11 movies lined up this year. Last year, my Hong Kong selection was the last movie in the lineup. It feels like I unintentionally flipped it around because this year, my Hong Kong selection kicks off the festival. Its definitely a good thing. Especially with a two movie night on the first day.

The most unexpected part is that the lineup was intense. Its really intense for a Chinese movie. The most packed I’ve been to it. Maybe it has to do with Donnie Yen being our main guy in this crime thriller called Kung Fu Killer.  I’m a huge fan of Donnie Yen and I’ve seen almost every movie that he’s been in.  This one boasts that its all about martial arts, so I’m totally down for it 🙂

Let’s check it out!

Kung Fu Killer (2014)

(also called: Kung Fu Jungle)

kung fu killer

Director: Teddy Chan

Cast: Donnie Yen, Baoqiang Wang, Charlie Yeung, Michelle Bai, Alex Fong, Deep Ng, Kang Yu, Xing Yu, Siu-Wong Fan

Three years ago, martial arts instructor for the police force Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) accidentally kills an opponent in a duel and confesses his crime right away.  This lands him with a five year sentence.  When a man is found dead by brutal force in a suspicious way, Mo does everything possible to offer up his knowledge to help the police.  In exchange, they have to let him out.  Reluctantly, Detective Luk (Charlie Yeung) recruits his help as they track down the killer who is targeting the top martial arts masters and challenging them to a duel to death.  Will Mo be able to stop the killer before too many lives are lost?

Kung Fu Killer

Right from the very cool opening scene with credits, Donnie Yen is not only the main lead but the action director of Kung Fu Killer.  That is as promising as it can get for a movie which focuses on the true essence of martial arts, reaching for the roots.  The best way to approach this review is to look at step by step.  If you go to this movie, what are you expecting? For me, phenomenal martial arts and action sequences.  If you look at the actors recruited for even the short roles of the martial arts masters here, they are all deeply rooted in various aspects of martial arts.  With the right cast, this movie speaks with the authenticity of the arts which is there whether we venture into the world of boxing, kicking, grappling, or weapons.  It touches on all of it.  Every action scene is tense and thriller to watch even if you can predict the outcome. On top of that, trying to stay traditional with the arts, it still knows how to add creativity to the scenes to make it as original and breathtaking, especially that last battle.

Kung Fu Killer

Kung Fu Killer has a solid enough story to carry it through.  It also carries a few meaningful messages about what the essence of martial arts, how to keep control over your emotions and remembering your responsibilities and staying honorable.  It can even carry the message that life is about the choices you make, about finding that balance to treat something as an art and not a killing device.  All very relevant to action movies like this which leans toward a more violent side with a brutal and vicious villain like Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang).  The bad guy here, Fung, is a peculiar one.  A part of me doesn’t quite buy his act but there is no doubt that his character was scripted to be a maniac, a martial arts crazed maniac who is all about the ancient methods of his training to become No.1 that its become an obsession.  For that part, this guy does a really good job.  He’s a bit of an unpredictable goof in his expressions and whatnot but he has mad martial arts skills that he gets to show off as he fights each opponent.

Kung Fu Killer

But, as brilliant as some of the casting decisions were in the fighting domain.  Props goes out to Michelle Bai who shows off some stellar sword fighting abilities, I wasn’t so excited about our main actress here playing Detective Luk by Charlie Yeung.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Charlie Yeung as a soft docile girl.  Something about her doesn’t pull off that tough lady cop thing really well.  Plus, the theatre laughed a lot at the dialogue, especially hers.  I don’t know if it was like they were liking it or not but for me, something felt like it was missing.  She just didn’t seem commanding enough for that role. While I’m at the dialogue, this one has some pretty bad script in general.  I’m not saying anyone really cares but I didn’t need to read subtitles but when I did catch a glimpse of it, I kind of giggled a little at it because watching it was already a little laugh out loud but those subtitles.  But then, there aren’t all that many lines. I was there for the action part of it. If I had to be nitpicky, there was a scene or two of bad CGI and then one particular scene that I swore I saw the wire during a battle. So really, just little flaws here and there. Plus, they offset it by putting Alex Fong in here even if its just a small Police Chief Inspector role.  I loved this guy when he used to do TV series and he makes a great cop. Okay, need to turn off the fangirl mode.

Overall, Kung Fu Killer isn’t meant to be a cinematic masterpiece.  It carries a decent and rather simple story that brings in the essence of the battle in martial arts.  The tribute of martial arts gives it a variety of fighting skills and with the stakes of death being the final result, every fight is high intense and thrilling to watch.  Most of the cast was done perfectly, especially getting actual actors trained in martial arts, there was just one casting choice I wasn’t fully convinced worked to this film’s advantage.  However, even though the dialogue was not exactly great, I was there for some mind-blowing action sequences and that delivered all the way!

Have you seen Kung Fu Killer? Are you fan of Donnie Yen and/or martial arts?

Check back tomorrow for the review of the second movie at Fantasia that I saw and a creature feature from Ireland called The Hallow!

Fantasia Festival 2014: Open Windows (2014)

After a 4 day movie run at the Fantasia Film Festival, I have a few days off to put together these reviews (before my next bunch comes around) 🙂

The first movie to kickoff my Fantasia Festival 2014 is Open Windows, a Spain/USA crime thriller.  Open Windows didn’t start off on a good note technically and it had nothing to do with the movie.  After a server reboot and two stops due to sound issues throughout, the movie did finish playing thankfully and I think despite the irritating sounds during, everyone had a good laugh out of it 🙂 Thats what I like about festivals.  Everyone is pretty chill about these things.  So, I put those things aside and I’m going to write how I felt about this one.

open windowsDirector: Nacho Vigalondo

Cast: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell, Adam Quintero

Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) is the webmaster of Jill Godard Caught: a website dedicated to a star he obsesses over.  Luckily, he wins the Internet contest to have dinner with Jill Godard (Sasha Grey) except the campaign manager, Chord contacts him and notifies him that Jill has decided to cancel it last minute.  However, Chord makes it up to him by  sending him links that brings him closer to Jill’s life.  However, as the night goes on, Nick realizes that Chord isn’t really the campaign manager and he has something much bigger and more dangerous than he imagined for both him and Jill.

Open Windows is a tech thriller and one that utilizes a found footage-esque sort of approach. I’m not much of a found footage expert.  In fact, I’m relatively new to this genre and honestly, I’ve found zero interest in it.  Maybe its the shaky camera work and the really horrible scripts I’ve seen.  I go into every single movie hoping to like it and finally, I think I’ve found one thats decent.  Open Windows is not with a video camera but its the modern day version of it.  Everything happens on the computer screen of Nick Chambers.  Then it moves onto another technology item as the plot thickens. Its a new take on an overused and not so much appreciated genre (from what I gather) and this gives it a new life. It truly reminds us: everyday people who rely on almost everything with our computers, the dangers behind it. Someone can hack anything, control anything and just rip your life apart. I promise you, the first thing I did when I got home is re-apply a piece of post-it to cover the webcam on my laptop.  I’m not going to striptease nor do I think someone would stalk me but you know, precautions are always good.

Open Windows

I think before we continue with this write-up, you should know that I’m exceptionally stupid at computers and technology.  I make do and I learn bit by bit but I think being on a computer in this day and age is all about multitasking and we have so many different windows going on at the same time.  That is something to prepare yourself for with Open Windows.  Its a bit of multitasking and whats really good is that its really very vocal.  Everything is said out loud and we can follow as to what Chord wants Nick to do the whole way with a few interruptions.  That being said, this is  thriller and to at least keep the thrills on, there really shouldn’t be too much of a reveal here.

Open Windows is a great approach and although sometimes that computer screen can get confusing especially with the sound system problems, the insert of some mysterious characters turns the whole plot around.  Those characters also were responsible for a part of my confusion as they had the main guy had a really heavy accent and with all the voices going on at one point, I just got the jest of what was going on.  The pace of the movie is actually really intriguing and tons of questions pops up right up to the big finale when literally everything turns into a huge twisty pile.  I can’t say mess because I do applaud what they were trying to do even if I needed to sit back for a while (or think a bit about it while I was walking to the bus) about what actually went down. I think I have a good idea of what happened.  Where they sometimes lost me was with the technical thing, but I think the less you know technology the more you can feel the danger of this whole thing and for the most part, I started wondering, how will Nick Chambers get himself out of this situation? Lets not even go to say, how he will save Jill Godard…

Open Windows

Before I get ahead of myself because I know I’m heading in that direction, we need to look at Nick Chambers character. Elijah Wood does an outstanding job and falling into an obsessive fanboy. You know that he is because he catches everything of Jill Godard on his site and takes screen shots of every moment she shows her face.  To a certain extent, it covers his judgement and logic.  To me, it was illogical that I’d click a link from a stranger who calls me claiming to be somebody and I can’t see his face.  On top of that, the link is from a site called hackspot.  Ding ding ding! This cannot lead to something legal, much less something that you want to get yourself into.  BUT, he loves this girl and he’s curious.  Some of you might watch this and think he is dumb but as out there as the ending feels, it gives us the answer we want. I thought it was worth the wait at least.

Open Windows

Now, I’m not familiar with Sasha Grey. I only ever saw her in Would You Rather (my review HERE) and she had a somewhat meh role in that.  She’s definitely gotten herself a better role in Open Windows.  She still gets partially naked once but for the most part, she does carry the movie pretty well.  She’s really just the damsel in distress but at the same time, we’re learning about her since thats who the camera is intentionally stalking.  The question before anything is why does Chord want to do this to her and why would he use the hands of Nick Chambers to do it?

Overall, Open Windows is full of questions like most thrillers should have and a lot of them do get answered by the end.  There are some issues with just logic and judgement with the characters and the ending is a bit complicated, maybe a bit too complex since I got lost for a few moments. There are some parts where I questioned why anyone would do that but Open Windows was done well enough with a fresh take on how it was in that intriguing tech-y found footage-esque approach that I got over all of it and felt the tension as the movie progressed on.  I’m not going to say this is the best thriller I’ve seen but its far from the worst.  It has a lot of potential and it might have had space to be better but everyone does a great job here and I fully appreciated the movie for what it was (even if we had pauses due to technical difficulties) 🙂 I enjoyed it a lot and I would probably give it a second chance, maybe at home with some headphones and subtitles on.

P.S. I’m bumping up Elijah Woods’ Maniac on my viewing list 😉

Since this is just a Canadian Premiere, has anyone else seen this yet? What did you think? Any thoughts on Elijah Woods and/or Sasha Grey?

Infernal Affairs II (2003)

For last month’s Genre Grandeur at MovieRob’s site, I revisited Infernal Affairs and showed how I have very deep appreciation for that one.  You can check it out HERE! That brought on my desire to continue watching the trilogy.  So thats what we’re going to do for the next few days 🙂 I believe Infernal Affairs 2 & 3 are not very popular outside of Hong Kong.  I’m not even sure if they were popular within Hong Kong. But it is in fact a trilogy and therefore, it just seems right to finish it off in style.

**A word of advice: If you HAVE NOT seen the first one, you might want to check it out before blindly moving into the following two.**

Let’s check it out!

infernal affairs 2 posterDirector: Wai-Keung Lau & Alan Mak

Cast: Eric Tsang, Anthony Wong, Carina Lau, Francis Ng, Shawn Yue, Edison Chen, Jun Hu

Rewinding back 12 years before the events of Infernal Affairs, Yan (Shawn Yue) is expelled from the police academy due to his family background.  Despite wanting to distance himself, to the point of using his mom’s last name, it still caused him have that result.  However, all is not lost, Superintendant Wong (Anthony Wong) offers him a chance to be an undercover and try to get involved with his family after the sudden murder of his father by helping out his half brother, Hau (Francis Ng). On the other hand, Sam (Eric Tsang) has sent in Ming (Edison Chen) to be the mole at the police department without knowing that his wife Mary (Carina Lau) had secretly asked him to take out Ngai, the big boss of the triad and also Hau’s father. As both the police and triad have been infiltrated with each other’s men, how long could their secrets be locked up?

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. We all climb towards heaven. We all fall towards hell. – Infernal Affairs 2

Infernal Affairs 2 starts with that quote up there before anything happens.  As the scene rolls in, it lets you know right away that we’ve turned back time to see how young Yan (Shawn Yue) and young Ming (Edison Chen) got to where they were in the first part.  All these events correlate in a certain way and if you paid enough attention in the first one, you’ll see the links.  I thought that was very well pieced together.

infernal affairs 2 yan and hau

Although, Shawn and Edison are both rather green actors when this movie came out, they were surrounded by a stellar cast.  Before I go and talk about the rest of the cast, I do believe that I think, despite them not having a whole lot of screen time (surprising for the purpose of this movie), their roles were enforced enough to make the story strong enough to make us understand how the events had spiraled into Infernal Affairs.  In the first one, even the grown up Yan and Ming are not particularly talkative but more analytical and therefore, they didn’t have much dialogue either.  Many times, silence can enhance the atmosphere of a movie, especially ones that keeps the audience guessing. I honestly think this was just to mask their lack of ability to act but it kind of did work decently.

Infernal Affairs 2

In the first Infernal Affairs, I already talked about the awesomeness with Eric Tsang as Sam and Anthony Wong as SP Wong. So I’m not going to be back to that.  With these two, the quality is always almost insured (at least I can’t remember anything bad from then right now).  However, the role of same did change a little as did their chemistry.  So I’m going to talk about Francis Ng, who plays the calm businessman type of triad leader Hau (some would compare him to Michael Corleone). He has a silent violent personality which we don’t quite see till the finale.  He knows how to get dirt on the people around him as he  has eyes everywhere. His story is the one that causes all the effects here by means creating subplots. So in this one, the chemistry between Anthony Wong’s SP Wong and his are the ones that spark some intense chemistry.

Infernal Affairs 2Another person worth mentioning is Carina Lau who plays Mary, the beautiful soft-spoken wife of Sam.  Her main goal is to help her husband move up from where he is and one day be the boss and not the minion to protect him.  With the help of young Ming, who she brought into the triad business, he has a certain dedication to her.  Her character is actually quite honorable and by far, one of my favorite roles that she’s been in.  Don’t get me wrong, Carina Lau is a wonderful actress and I’ve seen her across many genres but this role was really impressive.  The chemistry between her character Mary with Sam are limited as they have very little screen time together but in turn, we see her true colors in her interactions with the Young Ming.

Infernal Affairs 2 This is the second time I’m watching Infernal Affairs 2.  I watched this back in 2004 or so after the trilogy had been released.  Back then, I found this pretty good.  This time around, I found it still pretty good because it creates a nice vibe even though the purpose of the movie promoted wasn’t exactly what really happened as the focus was not on young Ming and Yan but rather on the people around them. However, it starts feeling really long when I started realizing how many subplots they had stuff in it.  I’m not saying its not necessary but at a certain point, it feels like it drags a little before it hits the big finale and things pick up a little again.

Overall, Infernal Affairs is worth a watch.  It gives some stellar performances and it does set up the partial backstage for what does happen in Infernal Affairs.  The audience gets an idea as to not only where young Ming and Yan come from but also the people around them who influenced them more in depth especially SP Wong, Sam and the additional characters with Ngai and Mary. Although the length is my biggest complaint, this one is worth a watch.  It sets up the stage for maybe the anticipation of the third movie.

Have you seen Infernal Affairs 2? Are you familiar with the actors/actresses in this one? 

Genre Grandeur – Infernal Affairs (2002)

Check out my review for Movierob’s May Genre Grandeur for Crime month of Infernal Affairs. Its one of my absolute favorite crime movies and this re-watch was long overdue. I’m going to be watching the next 2 also in the near future. Look forward to my reviews of those.

However, June’s Genre Grandeur is for Superhero/Comic book movies so if you have a favorite you’d like to write about, send it over to Rob. All the details are in the post before the review.

A huge thanks to Rob for putting this together. I had a lot of fun revisiting Infernal Affairs and now I’m all pumped up to rewatch the entire trilogy!

MovieRob

For my next guest post for this month’s Genre Grandeur – Crime, I present you with a review by Kim of Tranquil Dreams of Infernal Affairs (2002).  Her site is filled with movie reviews, photo challenges, travel posts, and of course very interesting recipes.  If you don’t already follow her site, I urge you to do so.

If there are any of you out there who still want to submit a post for this months genre – I am willing to give you a two day extension (until 27th May) to send me your review (crime@movierob.net).  If you are planning on it (ERIC!!) :), please shoot me an email to let me know to look out for it.

Just a quick reminder that next month’s Genre, which was chosen by Zoe is Superhero/Comic book movies, so feel free to start sending those in too (comic@movierob.net)

Now on to…

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Now You See Me (2013)

The post for yesterday didn’t really happen but I did manage to squeeze in a movie on my down time and I felt like I needed a little magic in my life so I put in a movie I’ve been wanting to see since it hit the big screen but missed because lets just say, I was the only one that was enthusiastic about it.  Despite the pretty much average reviews, I still have rather high hopes for this one. Lets do it! Back on track with catching up on 2013 flicks 🙂

now you see me posterDirector: Louis Leterrier

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine

Four solo magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Wood Harrelson, Dave Franco) come together to form the Four Horsemen. In their first act in Las Vegas, they attempt to rob a bank and give back to the audience.  This alerts the FBI and the case is handed to  Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) who is forced to team up with Interpol agent, Alma Dary (Melanie Laurent) to try and catch them.  Meanwhile, they seem to always be a step ahead.

Now You See Me is a crime/mystery thriller.  Let me first talk about why this movie drew me in.  First of all, its about magic.  I like that stuff.  I’m one of those really easily tricked people and I can never replicate or figure out how any trick is done so I’m the optimal target audience for this because I’ll just lick it right up and not really think but enjoy the show.  Second, notice the cast up there.  Its full of actors and actresses I like (if not, love).  I’ll elaborate on that point a bit later. Last, its essentially a heist flick, a thriller and a mystery, all of the above is one of my favorite genres.

NOW YOU SEE ME

Now You See Me is very much like watching a magic show.  Everything is flashy and there’s plenty of action.  The first two acts were fun and impeccable to watch on screen.  The effects were not so 2013 but more 2003 but thats okay, I’m not very nitpicky about that sort of thing. Its really just something I noticed.  The action was great and for the most part, I was pretty drawn into the movie.  The only deal was that there was something missing to pull me in completely because right near the finale, I pressed pause and was about to shower and then I noticed I had 15 minutes so I sat back down and continued on.  Usually, I don’t want to leave my chair at the end.  So I acknowledge something wasn’t there, I just can’t pinpoint what. Maybe its the connection to any of the characters…I need to think that one through again.

now you see me dylan alma

With that point we head into the characters.  Other than Dave Franco being a new face (which I’ve only seen before in 21 Jump Street) in The Four Horsemen, I really like the other three.  Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson worked fantastic in Zombieland so I was hopeful about their performance here and it didn’t disappoint.  I love Isla Fisher because she is quite good in a lot of the roles. Dave Franco was pretty good too and well, he has charm and style.  The Four Horsemen meshed well together and that carried a good part of the movie to a good level for me.  And then we come to our opposite party, Melanie Laurent and Mark Ruffalo.  I’ve only seen these two previously separately in one other movie before this one, I was alright with them in this.  I can’t help but feel like it could have been better, but I’m no expert at this so its just a feeling I’m getting. Finally, we have two of my favorite actors: Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.  They may have very small roles but I pretty much have admitted that Michael Caine doesn’t have to do much and he can be totally awesome, the same goes for Morgan Freeman 🙂 Great actors can portray what they want to convey in their facial expressions and these two do it so well.

now you see me morgan freeman and michael caine

Now You See Me is really a movie that resembles watching a magic show. You either buy it or you don’t.  For me, my fascination for magic probably made me like this movie a lot more than the majority of viewers.  The cast and their chemistry with each other brings the movie to a more enjoyable level as well.  There are some part of the plot that seems to fall flat, especially nearing the end when it becomes a bit more predictable in some parts where I did guess it but it could have gone both ways.  After these are magicians, so you never know if what happens is what they planned or not.

There is no doubt in my mind that I believe this is a good movie.  I would gladly watch it again, maybe not in abundance but its one that I bought their acts and I had fun and was entertained.  Thats what matters in the end, right?

Have you seen Now You See Me? What do you think about it?

The Lookout (2007)

Back in December, Target bought out Zellers and as our neighborhood Zellers was cleaning out all of its stock, I went hunting for extra cheap DVDs.  In the piles and piles, I found this one.  I like Matthew Goode and JGL, so why not?

the lookout posterDirector: Scott Frank

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Goode, Jeff Daniels, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino, Sergio Di Zio

When a tragic accident causes Chris (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to lose every thing he had in his promising future, he has to rebuild it step by step and adapt to being handicapped with his memory.  He no longer can sequence his thoughts properly and control his emotions due to damage to his frontal lobes.  Due to this, he ends up paired up with a blind man called Lewis (Jeff Daniels) as a means to take care of each other.  After a night shift at his job, he meets Gary Spargo, a guy who claims he used to date his sister and praise the success he had in school back in the day before the accident.  Gary introduces him to his friends and helps him meet an ex-dancer called Luvlee (Isla Fisher).  Eventually, he learns that Gary approached him to manipulate him to join them in their bank heist and be their lookout and teaches him that “Whoever has the money has the power”.

The Lookout heist

Even after a few days of seeing this, I’m having slightly mixed feelings about this.  Don’t get me wrong.  Its a decent flick.  In fact, for a good part of this drama/crime thriller, I felt that it was alright.  Especially since we had to understand what our main character Chris was going through and to understand how his life was run.  However, once the whole heist thing goes down, I felt it was a bit more predictable.  I had a feeling of what was going to go down and I even figured out some of their lines.

the lookout lewis chris

 

There is one specific element that I’d like to really emphasize on because the movie would’ve been pretty horrible without it was the cast and their characters.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a really good Chris, a guy who has to calm his emotions and deal with the mess he’s made when his brain isn’t really cooperating with him.  Even before all the great breakthrough roles he had, this one shows us how promising he is.  It helps that everyone else, or at least the other  roles were outstanding as well.  I’ve always liked Jeff Daniels.  Remembering him in Speed makes me love him even more.  Now, as Lewis, he plays a tough, sometimes vulgar, sarcastic, but pretty easy going blind guy.  He’s extremely chill with everything that Chris does, but uses all his other senses to look out for him.

the lookout chris gary

 

Matthew Goode pretty much plays the bad guy here. He’s the leader of the heist and he wants the money to have more power.  He’s secretive and the moment his Gary Spargo ends up on screen, we start wondering.  He’s a suspenseful character, mostly because we’re not completely sure if he’s manipulating Chris or whether he’s really out to help him sincerely and be his friend.  Thats the guessing game and the surprises of the movie and he is the main thrill.  Of course, except for his other henchman, Bone who really looks creepy and doesn’t talk.  That guy had me thinking about what he was there to do every time he popped up.

lookout luvlee

 

Isla Fisher plays the lovely Luvlee, an ex-dancer (we never see her dance so we’ll just accept that its the truth) who ends up having a “relationship” with Chris.  This wasn’t a big role but its Isla Fisher and I love her charisma on screen.  I’ve enjoyed most of the movies with her in it.  Most of who Luvlee is isn’t really apparent as we don’t really learn much about her throughout the movie.  This also gives her character a little bit of mystery.

This movie is a decent thriller mostly for its characters.  The story is slow-paced but for a good part of the first half, it really has us guessing and trying to figure out everyone’s positions as the characters slowly one by one enter the screen.  It does drop off a bit at the end however, its worth the watch just to see Matthew Goode in a bad guy role or JGL’s awesomeness.