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Review Kiss of the Dragon (2001): Jet Li, Corey Yuen and Luc Besson are a golden combination!

genre: action, martial arts, crime

Jet Li plays a Chinese agent who gets framed for a murder he didn't commit. Naturally he wants to prove his innocence and get out of this predicament. Of course not without crushing some bones.

If you think about it the plot is nonsensical. Why would a French cop be allowed to kill people whenever he feels like it? Why was a Chinese agent needed in the first place? How in the hell did a hooker from Montana USA get involved into all of this? Why did the French agents act like gangsters even if they wanted to have their piece of the heroin trade? Why didn't the French cop kill the hooker? Wouldn't she be a liability? It's not like he had qualms killing people? There are so many questions raised. And none of the answers even if they got answered really matter. The plot like with many action films is used as an excuse to motivate the many action sequences. It's incredibly effective. The action is top notch. It's hectic but choreographed well. You can actually follow what is happening. Plus Corey Yuen knows how to make action exciting with very minimal means. Especially the finale is rewarding.

Although I didn't really like Bridget Fonda's involvement. She was too much of a distraction. Her scenes also slow down the action and easily could have been left out. Then again the film would have been a little on the short side. Definitely one I can recommend!

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Review Black Mask a.k.a Hak hap (1996): Easily one of Jet Li's worst!

genre: martial arts, action, science fiction

Tsui chik is a supersoldier who has to fight his old comrades in arms because they are evil. Then there are some subplots that will mostly annoy you to death.

Sure the main plot of a former assassin with a conscience who is trying to do good whenever and wherever he can normally would have been appreciated. In this it just plays into the superhero tropes I myself get tired of. Don't get me wrong I love superhero shows and films. However I really get tired of the element where a hero can't come into action because of his alias or somehow lost his powers. If you think about it. it's also weird how Jet Li's character is the only one who is aware that their old ways were wrong and evil. If you would judge the film on it's cast you would be surprised how many good actors are in it. All of them deserve better. Sole blame for the big mess is director Daniel Lee Yan-Gong. The same guy responsible for What Price Survival which also was one big disaster. The only decent one he has directed is Dragon Squad. Although that one is heavily flawed as well. And I have yet to find a decent copy to do a proper review of.

Other than that Black Mask is basically mostly action. I wished I could say that it's the good kind though. Just as the plot the action is messy and all over the place. Plenty of gunplay and hand to hand combat. But filmed and choreographed in a way that I didn't find it enjoyable that much. Maybe the final sequence redeems the film somewhat. But to the extent that I can recommend this? No.

Overall Black Mask is easily one of Jet Li's worst. It easily could have been better had Tsui Hark himself decided to direct. But I almost can't believe that Yuen Woo-Ping was involved as an action director. Still it could very well be that director Daniel Lee butchered the action scenes by sheer incompetence. 

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Filmography Jet Li

Listed are all the titles Jet Li was involved in as an actor.

Shaolin Temple (1982) ... Gong Yuen/Jue Yuan
This Is Kung Fu (1983) ... Biographical role
Kids from Shaolin (1984) ... San Lung
Martial Arts of Shaolin (1986) ... Lin Zhi Ming
Dragons of the Orient (1988) ... Biographical role
Abbot Hai Teng (1988) ... Biographical role
Born to Defence (1988) ... Jet
Dragon Fight (1989) ... Jimmy Lee Kwok Lap
Once Upon a Time in China (1991) ... Wong Fei Hung
Once Upon a Time in China II (1992) ... Wong Fei-Hung
The Master (1992) ... Kit
Swordsman 2 (1992) ... Ling Woo Chung
Lucky Way (1992) 
Once Upon a Time in China III (1993) ... Wong Fei-Hung
Fong Sai Yuk (1993) ... Fong Sai Yuk
Last Hero in China (1993) ... Wong Fei Hung
Fong Sai Yuk II (1993) ... Fong Sai Yuk
The Tai-Chi Master (1993) ... Shang Jun Bia
Kung Fu Cult Master (1993) ... Chang Mo-Kei
The New Legend of Shaolin (1994) ... Hung Hei Goon
Shaolin Kung Fu (1994) ... Himself
The Bodyguard from Beijing (1994) ... Allan Hui Ching Yeung
Fist of Legend (1994) ... Chen Zhen
My Father Is a Hero (1995) ... Gung Wai
High Risk (1995) ... Lee Git
The Scripture with No Words (1996) ... Wai Bok Si / Chow Si Kit
Black Mask (1996) ... Chui Chik
Once Upon a Time in China and America (1997) ... Wong Fei-Hung
Hitman (1998) ... Fu
Romeo Must Die (2000)
The One (2001)
Cause - Birth of Hero (2002) ... Himself
Hero (2002) ... Nameless
Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)
Rise to Honor (2003 / Video Game)
  Fearless (2006) ... Huo Yuanjia
The Warlords (2007) ... General Pang Qing-Yun
  The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) ... Emperor
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) ... Monkey King/Silent Monk Lan Cai He
The Founding of a Republic (2009) ... Cmdr. Chen Shaokuan, Chief of Navy
Ocean Paradise (2010) ... Wang Xincheng
The Sorcerer and the White Snake (2011) ... Abbot Fahai
Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011) ... Zhao Huaian
Badges of Fury (2013) ... Huang Fei Hong
League of Gods (2016) ... Jiang Ziya
On That Night... While We Dream (2017) ... Old servant
Mulan (2020)

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Review Hide and Seek a.k.a. Sum-bakk-og-jil (2013): Absolutely chilling!

genre: mystery, thriller

Seong-soo, our main character, receives news that his brother has gone missing. While he hasn't really been in touch with him because of something that happened in the past, he decides to look into the disappearance of his brother. 

It's the start of a compelling mystery and thrill ride of sheer terror and chills. Hide and Seek does a real good job of playing around with convention and making you look into all kinds of directions. Normally I would applaud more background on vital characters. In this film not knowing increases the suspense. Who is this brother? And why he is estranged from Seon-soo helps? These questions and more help you draw into events. Especially if things get darker and creepier. 

Most of the time when a mystery is revealed the suspense is gone. Not here. I dare to say it actually increases the tension since the audacity of it all is incredibly overwhelming. Sure quite far fetched. But to be honest in this society I could see certain events of this film happening in real life. I do have to add that the actors in this film make everything believable. They are the ones who sell the terror. Real fright and fear is hard to portray especially when you aren't really experiencing it. But naturally credit should also go to the writers and director of the film since they have been incredibly creative with what basically is a very conventional premise. 

I was expecting the usual thrills but I was surprised to get so much more out of this viewing experience. It's absolutely chilling and definitely worth your time!

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Review Intruder a.k.a. Chimipja (2020): Certainly one I can recommend.

genre: mystery, thriller

Kang Seo-jin is an architect who lost his wife in a hit and run accident 6 months ago. Stricken with grief and a drive to find the driver responsible for this, he has a hard time doing his job or taking care of his daughter properly.On top of that he receives news that his long lost sister has been found after 25 years. And this all happens within the first five minutes of the film.

I myself would have liked it had they taken a little more time to set the premise up. But I guess director Sohn Won-Pyung didn't deem this necessary. This director only film a short film before Intruder and while he did a decent job overall. I do think he should have slowed down events in the beginning as now they come at you in lightning speed making it hard to process all the information that is being thrown at you. Especially if that plays a large role dramatically. In any case Seo-jin is very suspicious of the woman claiming to be his sister. In fact he is the only one to be having problems with her as the rest of his family seem to have accepted her immediately. This frustrates him even more. At one point you do start to wonder whether our main character is sane or not. Or he simply is too distraught or confused to be a reliable witness to the events that occur. 

While I think Intruder is a little too ambitious for it's own good when it starts to focus on the main story it manages to draw you in. Too many strange things are happening and even the family members are acting weird. The explanation given is something that can be deduced quite easily but still is a little too far fetched for my taste. However it's so outrageous  and effective that I was very willing to go along with it as it adds to the build up of suspense and even a slight sense of dread. Thing is that apart from a few elements events could very well be possible making everything quite creepy and scary.

I have read that Intruder is predictable and boring. While certain events do play out in the way you would think they would there are still many surprises to be experienced. Intruder does do a good job of keeping you in the dark for a long time. Even manages to make you doubt the main character. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Intruder and certainly is one I can recommend.

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Review The Owners (2020): Not worth your time at all. Skip it!

genre: horror, thriller

Is there life after Game of Thrones? For some cast members there is. I am not so sure of this is the case for Maisie Williams.

The Owners is a film that leans in on Don't Breathe and The Visit only without the tension and surprises. In all honestly I was hoping this film to at least offer some horror goodness and nothing else. However it can't even do that. What you get in return is boredom and confusion. Not that the plot is complicated. But it's so thin and lackluster you simply don't care. I can't even believe that the people involved were fine with the end result. The film does contain some graphic scenes but when they occur it doesn't have the impact it should have. Why? Because all of the characters are extremely unlikable. The youngsters including Maisie are too stupid for words. The old couple do a better job of showing range. Sylvester McCoy can be quite charming. However you are very aware that he plays a character who is pretending to be someone he is not. It completely ruins the immersion of believing that he is a kind old man who doesn't deserve to be terrorized.

How about Maisie Williams? If anything, either she has a bad agent or she is not as talented as one might think. She adds absolutely nothing to her character. If ever there was a time for her to ham up this would be it. Her character needed meat or that one element that would make her more interesting. But for some reason she goes the serious route without even attempting a different style of appearance or expression. She shows the same confused face she had in the entirety of Game of Thrones. In that show though it was very warranted. 

Not worth your time at all. Skip it!

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Zombie time! Review of Train to Busan presents: Peninsula (2020) and Review of #Alive a.k.a. #Saraitda (2020)

genre: horror, action, drama

Train to Busan almost came out of nowhere in a time zombie fatigue was at it's highest. Yet it managed to surprise the majority of film fans. The film was proof you still can be creative and fresh in a genre that has been done to death. Naturally any production tied to this title will at least generate the same expectations. When the news hit me that a sequel was coming I got excited. After seeing the trailer I actually was happy. Since it looked real promising. Then Covid-19 happened and almost everything came to a stop. Film productions all over the world halted. I had very little to no hope we would get to watch any major film this year despite the optimism some politicians and film makers had. But then Peninsula arrived and I couldn't be happier. Alas it soon turned into sadness and disappointment.

Whatever this was it had very little or nothing to do with Train to Busan. Apart from it taking part in the same world I couldn't detect a connection to the original. Nor was there a connection to the prequel in the franchise, Seoul Station (2016). Director Yeon Sang-ho apparently has stated that Peninsula is more a spiritual sequel than a direct sequel. And to be honest I am fine with that. However than at least this sequel has to be equal quality wise. I could forgive and overlook the obvious CGI effects. But what is hard to swallow is the lack of drama and investment into the characters. I hardly cared about any of them since it is expected of you to care for them instead of the film motivating you to care for them. Now had the action and adventure elements been more convincing I also could have overlooked that. 

Unfortunately it's here where the film truly lets down since it points out why it's important to care for the characters. Without the investment the action simply is not exciting enough. Sure there was some zombie action that were surprising and creative. Only those moments didn't last that long. Most of the action consist of driving sequences. It's these scenes that look very fake. The cars went too fast. And you could tell it was CGI. Had they slowed it down for example it already would have improved things significantly. This makes me think that for some reason they have forced this production to be released early. It's like they rushed the editing and any other post processing to make this happen. My question is why? I mean nobody was expecting this film to come out early and most fans would have preferred it had they worked on the film a little longer.

Overall Peninsula is a real disappointment compared to previous films in the franchise. But the action is decent enough if you can manage to overlook the bad CGI.

Perhaps they were aware #Alive was also making it's way to theaters and wanted to steal away the thunder from that film. Who knows? Except #Alive is a much better film.

Review #Alive a.k.a. #Saraitda (2020)

I honestly wasn't expecting much from #Alive since it looked like it was going to a by the numbers zombie film. And yet I found myself enjoying it quite a lot.

The film is energetic and quite fast paced. Yet it never feels like it does. When needed the film does take a few moments to slow down and give you some insight into the psychology of the main characters. It's not much but enough to make you root for them. Very essential for films like these. Especially when some of the actions of these characters are a bit moronic. Then again they are human after all and normal humans make a lot of mistakes. At least these characters learn from them. And they are pretty inventive. I liked how main character Oh Joon-woo made good use of the drone he had. Personally I have very conflicted feelings about drones and the way they are used. However in this films examples are shown that I consider positive and beneficial. 

I do think that #Alive has borrowed some of the zombie tropes from Train to Busan, as in that they are fast and act like they do. Especially in the way they turn into the monsters. But it's immensely unnerving and effective so I do understand that this has been copied.

While I was watching this film I constantly had this feeling that most of the premise seemed familiar to me. Obviously with zombie films that is almost a given. However this feeling got stronger since even some of the major events played out the same in a film I had seen, The Night Eats The World. This has a very similar premise. Except it was far more slow paced and showed more of the problems someone faces when locked down in an apartment. It's almost like the film makers of #Alive had seen this film and decided to make a bigger and faster paced version of this. 

In any case this one I can definitely recommend since it's entertaining from start to finish. 


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Review Ava (2020): Jessica Chastain goes John Wick?

genre: action, crime, drama

Ava certainly could be seen as a film that copies some of the choreographed action heavily featured in John Wick. Mind you I actually would have liked it had the film been a non stop action flick with little or no story at all. Unfortunately Ava tries to be more and it hurts the film considerably.

At one point it becomes clear that Ava is an assassin with a conscience, in the same vein as La Femme Nikita or Anna. However she has no real plans to leave the job. Her atonement is trying to find out if the people she kills deserve to be killed. Neat idea. And if they actually had shown her to spare someone if they weren't that would have created a serious conflict with her superiors. At least something that would have made sense. But nope. Just the fact that she was talking to her victims put her bosses on the edge. I mean, what do they care if she does. She kills them nonetheless. Sure they do give some explanation why they are so worried. Apparently she had an episode once which turned her into an addict and made her unreliable. To be fair she was an addict when she got recruited. And they used that to their advantage. Her falling back into old habits is not that surprising considering she kills people for a living. That kind of thing will leave a mark on you. Our villain of the story played by Colin Farrel apparently doesn't want to take any risk with her.

Another story element is Ava reconnecting with her family. This introduces us to her ex played by Common who easily gives his worst performance ever. And am I supposed to believe that Jessica Chastain would ever be interested in a guy like that? Come on son! It was nice to see Geena Davis as Ava's mother. But honestly the whole family plot element could have been left out and wouldn't have made a difference. That's how disjointed the plot lines are. 

You might have guessed it. Ava is pretty bad. It's only digestible because of the involvement of Jessica Chastain, Geena Davis and John Malkovich. I wished I could say that Colin Farrel was good. Now don't get me wrong. He wasn't bad. But it's obvious he didn't even try. Not one I can recommend. Only worth it very late at night. 

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Review Rogue (2020): Flawed but decent B film with Megan Fox!

genre: action, adventure

I know what you are thinking? Megam Fox as a badass mercenary? I mean that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. Especially with her more looking like an instagram model who has never seen combat in her life. And yet I was fascinated with the concept. That and the fact that Philip Winchester from Strike Back was involved. As is one of it's directors, M.J. Basset.

Rogue follows the trend of recent films and TV Shows where military combat plays a large role. And honestly I can't complain about the choreography and style. It's all very well done. I also liked how many of the characters infused the film with some wit and comedic relief. It made them extremely likable. But unfortunately it can't hide some flaws. The acting of some actors is below average. It also doesn't help that some of these actors are supposed to make us feel for them. I understand the political messages and I appreciate the good intentions. But then the acting has to at least be believable. 

What makes Rogue interesting is that at one point next to what they already experienced also have to deal with one exceptional creature. Mostly real eventually CGI. Not super bad but it's here where you can tell that the film had a low budget. Still it was never distracting or bothersome. For the most part the inclusion of this creature is entertaining. Although I think they should have gone further and make it even bloodier, gorier and scarier. So how did Megan Fox fare? She did fine. I was able to get past her not really being suitable for this kind of role. Not everybody has what it takes to be a good leader. I doubt in real life anyone would follow someone like Megan Fox. In the film it's implied she is a survivor and very hard to kill. Her leadership or authority is rarely challenged and that says more about the soldiers and the respect they have for military hierarchy.

In any case, I found myself enjoying this film, despite it's flaws. In my opinion it is very much worth your time. 


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Review Psych 2: Lassie Come Home (2020 TVMovie): I enjoyed it somewhat but it was extremely bad compared to the show!

genre: comedy, crime, drama

Before I am getting accused of being a hater. I loved the show. Even the later seasons who significantly decreased in quality and writing. Then the first TV Movie got made and I had hope it would return to form, Unfortunately it didn't. Then news hit me of second movie which was going to be extra special since it marked the return of Timothy Omundson who suffered a stroke in 2017. It was so bad that he had believed his career was over. But he fought back and came out a winner. 

Unfortunately apart from a few moments Lassie Come Home barely adresses his struggle. I think they should and could have done more with this and made it funnier and dramatic. Of course Shawn and Gus should have acted the way they normally do. But I think it would have had more impact had they at least shared one scene where they indicated their love for Lassiter in their own but heartfelt way. Even the rescue dog did a far better job evoking emotions. It's also puzzling why Lassiter who mostly serves as a plot device is not featured more prominently. I think this film could and should have been more about him and his father. They could have given us insight on how he became the man he is today in the same vein they did with Shawn and Henry. Most of those flashback scenes were hilarious. 

And that brings me to the comedy. The chemistry between Shawn and Gus is undeniable. They provide the most laughs. But am I the only one thinking something is missing? It just isn't the same as in the first four seasons of the show. I remember that back then I couldn't stop laughing. Now I almost couldn't start. There was only one character who stole the show for me. Morrissey the rescue dog. He was funny. Probably because he is the only one remembering how the show used to be.

So was the movie devoid of heartfelt moments? No, there were one or two that will definitely pull the heartstrings. But I wished they would have taken more time to pay attention to what actor Timothy has been through. Merely mentioning it and almost downplaying his condition is not what I call respectful or constructive. The mystery elements were even more of a joke than usual. Meaning that it was the most cringy and least interesting so far. It should have had more depth and connection to who Lassiter is. But basically they are pointing out that they could have put any other character in his shoes and it wouldn't have changed the outcome.

Overall the second movie is a complete disappointment. It could and should have been better. But if they keep making these films like this not even the biggest fans will be able to stomach them. Although some Psych fans clearly are delusional and fooling themselves. They are probably the reason these TV Movies exist in the first place. I would be on board had they reprised the quality of the show that once was. You know who did a better job of coming back and rocking it? Monk. And this was while cast members were at their own home in the current corona pandemic. Monk in Quarantine it's called. Go check it out if you haven't done so already. 

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