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Review Ultraviolet (2006): Lots of eye candy but nothing else!

genre: action, science fiction

Ultraviolet starts with comic book panels implying that Ultraviolet is based on a comic book. But this is not the case. It's not based on anything at least not officially. It could be that it's heavily inspired on the BBC series produced in 1998. Who knows? It doesn't really matter. Ultraviolet is a mess.

It's easy to blame the director but wikipedia states that both director Kurt Wimmer and lead Milla Jovovich had been locked out of discussions of the film in the editing stages. Studio interference like this never is a good thing. But I doubt that this is the biggest reason this film has failed. There are many problems with this film. First of all the story. Or lack of. There barely is a story and whatever is present is far from compelling. Violet, who is some kind of vampire, comes into the possession of some special item which could be the cure or a weapon. And others are trying to get a hold of this special package. That's the story. And actually I don't mind it much had it at least served the action. Ultraviolet is filled with action. But none of it's exciting or thrilling. Stylish for sure. Only super woman Violet never is in real danger. Nor does she have that much trouble disposing enemies. You need to have some kind of tension. It's just more fun when it seems like that every fight could be her last. Even in the worst old school Kung fu flicks they make sure that the audience knows that the opponents are tough and hard to beat. Not once do we get to see Violet struggling. We do get to see some nice gun fu. But to be honest it's nowhere near as cool as Kurt Wimmer had directed in Equilibrium (2002).

Ultraviolet does offer decent eye candy. Immense bright colours and beautiful visuals that pop on your screen especially when displayed with for example a projector like I did. But is that enough to keep you entertained? For me it was since I was watching this film for it's visuals. But for anyone else? I don't think so. You basically are going from action scene to another with very little at stake. I didn't care for Violet. Even when portrayed by Jovovich. The fact that she basically has been playing the same role for years only adds to the boredom. Furthermore there is nothing else going on. 

Ultraviolet could be enjoyable very late at night or as a demo for watching films on a projector. 

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Filmography Milla Jovovich

All the titles Milla Jovovich has been involved in as an actress.

2019 Hellboy
2018 Future World
2017 Shock and Awe
2015 Survivor
2014 Cymbeline
2011 Bringing Up Bobby
2011 The Three Musketeers
2011 Faces in the Crowd
2010 Dirty Girl
2010 Stone
2009 Blood Into Wine
2009 The Fourth Kind
2009 A Perfect Getaway
2003 Dummy
2002 No Good Deed
2001 Zoolander
2000 The Claim
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel
1999 The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
1998 He Got Game
1997 The Fifth Element
1993 Dazed and Confused
1992 Chaplin

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Review The White Storm a.k.a. Sao du (2013): Heroic Bloodshed done the right way!

genre: heroic bloodshed, action, crime, bullet ballet, drama

Today is a very joyous occasion as I finally found a modern Heroic Bloodshed title that successfully recreated the awesomeness of those titles but in a more contemporary setting. The White Storm is everything I hoped for and then some.

Believe it or not I was very hesitant to watch this film after having endured so many disappointments. And I was incredibly sceptical. Then I saw comradery between friends very reminiscent of what I had seen in earlier John Woo titles like A Better Tomorrow and Bullet in the Head. Slowly and surely I was starting to believe and The White Storm delivered all I wanted until the very end. Not to say that it's without flaws. Perhaps there is a small pacing issue and maybe it's a little too ambitious for it's own good. Then again the film managed to surprise me at times due to dramatic elements and the dynamics between the main characters, Ma Ho-tin (Sean Lau), So Kin-chow (Louis Koo) and Cheung Tsz-wai (Nick Cheung). These three are the ones that make the film compelling. Of course it's nothing new. Still, many filmmakers today fail to accomplish what Benny Chand has accomplished by keeping things simple. It's the friendship between the characters that make you root for them even when they screw up. Naturally the good cast have a lot to do with this fact as well. They do a real good job of convincing they are brothers. Perhaps it's not entirely fair to say that the way the story plays out is simple. In fact I dare to say that it's quite genius how they managed to reverse roles so effectively. How and why you will have to discover for yourself.

Best of all is that every action scene has impact. Because you care about the main cast and whoever they are involved with there is a lot of tension. That and the action is very beautifully choreographed. It's not just action for the sake of it. It's cathartic and satisfying. Especially the finale. 

Overall The White Storm has restored my faith that there are still filmmakers around who refuse to let Heroic Bloodshed die. And for that I am very grateful. A must watch for sure!


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Review The Last Blood a.k.a. Jing tian shi er xiao shi a.k.a. Hard Boiled 2 - The-The Last Blood a.k.a. Hard Boiled III - The Last Blood a.k.a. 12 Hours of Terror

genre: bullet ballet, action, comedy

The distributors sure try their hardest to trick you into buying their stuff. I mean to go as far to call this film Hard Boiled 2 or even Hard Boiled III, while officially there has only been one Hard Boiled and has nothing to do with this film whatsoever. It's produced one year before Hard Boiled in case you are still doubting. Think about it. I know John Woo is brilliant but to travel back into time and than make a sequel to a film long before it's released? However even then it has raised expectations. So can Wong Jing deliver these?

Not by a long shot. There are some scenes that give you a glimpse of what could have been but then Wong Jing branches of into territories he has no business going into. He can't help himself infuse the silliest and worst jokes during completely serious and tragic moments. I have no idea why he does this. Is it to remind you that you are still watching a movie and you shouldn't take it seriously? Or doesn't he actually know how to balance out the several genres? In any case watching Wong Jing films is a required taste. Not to say that his films aren't enjoyable. Most of the time he does manage to reel you in despite his insanity. The Last Blood is no different. It interchanges real serious moments of action and sadism with comedy that simply don't blend well. Most of the comedy is insulting and inappropriate. The low blows are softened though by the charm and delivery by actors like Andy Lau. Still too often it detracts from the action since it minimizes the tension and gravity. John Woo  also wasn't afraid to be comedic but never at the cost of the action.

Some of the action is nicely choreographed. But most of the action scenes are over before you know it. I kept waiting for that one long drawn out gun battle and am still waiting. It is clear that Wong Jing also doesn't understand how to build momentum. So he wants to make comedies. Fine. Crack jokes, be silly and whatever you think is funny. But please give us that one action scene that is so cool, slick and entertaining that makes me forget all the silliness. A good example of this is Tiger on Beat (1988). It was incredibly silly. But the final action scene was crazy cool. Speaking of finales. The Last Blood is very disappointing in this department. By the time you get there the majority of the bad guys have been discarded and only a few of them are left. If they had been ninja's or one man armies like Rambo then things would have been different. Here they are hardly threatening or menacing. And it is confusing as hell since up until the finale the bad guys had been smart, effective and very deadly. 

Overall, it's not that bad but once again it's an action title that can't quite deliver on heroic carnage.

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Review Face/Off (1997): A John Woo classic that could have been just as good as Hard Boiled!

genre: action, crime, science fiction

Face/Off was the closest John Woo came to making a heroic bloodshed type of film in Hollywood excluding Hard Target of course. In hindsight Hard Target might be slightly superior to Face/Off. In any case this John Woo film has all the trademarks that made him famous. Except it's wrapped in an incredulous science fiction tale where the focus lies on the two main characters.

John Travolta and Nicolas Cage get to play their own character and each other. The first time you see this it's easily the main draw as it is incredibly compelling to watch the actors mimic each other. After multiple views though it becomes less interesting due to the novelty that has worn off. In a John Woo film this shouldn't matter much since you still have the action to rely on. And to be honest, it's in this department that Woo let's down a little. Not to say that it's not stylistic and beautiful It still is better choreographed than most Hollywood films. However it lacks the punch and grit for example Hard Boiled had. And there is not nearly as much gun play as I would have liked. Face/Off would have been perfect with either one extra long drawn out shoot out scene or three shorter ones. It's the one element I have been on the hunt for and sadly there aren't that many bullet ballet films that do it right.

Some people accuse Travolta and Cage of overacting too much. You have two characters who hate each other but are forced to wear each others face. How would you feel if that had happened to you? I mean the whole premise is so unbelievable that you have to have a little fun with it. They are supposed to exaggerate the characteristics to point out who is who. And it has to be said Travolta and Cage do a good job of playing each other. Too bad the story itself is your typical cops and robbers flick. I mean there are some scenes where they tried to play around with the switched identity plot like for example Castor as Archer gets to meet Archer's daughter. Only it doesn't go far enough. For a film that is as weird as it is it remains to be quite wholesome. 

Overall it's a film that remains to be fun after multiple viewings although it would have been much better had they actually dared to let Woo go loose like he did in his Hong Kong flicks. 

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Review The Viral Factor a.k.a. Jik zin (2012): Effective melodrama but everything else is subpar!

genre: action, drama, bullet ballet

Deep down The Viral Factor is a simple soap opera where some action and intrigue is put in. And maybe that is enough for some for me it is a downright disappointment.

I came across this title in my never ending search for good heroic bloodshed titles or titles that are similar in spirit. The Viral Factor in that regard is not even close. Had Dante Lam used the melodrama in combination with the bloodshed he would have had a powerhouse hit on his hand. Unfortunately Dante Lam demonstrates he doesn't know the classics. Instead he opts for the Michael Bay kind of action without style and incredibly flawed editing. 80 percent of the time you can hardly make out what is happening on the screen. I can't stress this enough. For action to be enjoyed you need to be able to see it. On top of this the action scenes also lacked tension. The official trailer contained more tension than the film itself. It gave the impression that we were in for some apocalyptic events. Sadly the viral element hardly plays a part. It's just a plot device. 

The focus clearly lies on the soap opera which was effective but lacking juiciness. I mean if you are going this route then why not do your best to exaggerate and make it truly compelling and interesting. For example, if you would have told me that I have a brother whose existence I wasn't aware of I wouldn't automatically be on his side. Unless there was this undeniable connection and chemistry. The mere fact that you are brothers isn't enough. I need more. And why is it that some immediately go criminal whenever things go bad in life? Yes I understand that if you have nothing and are desperate you will do whatever it takes. But that is my point. There are so many other options before you actually have to commit crimes. I also don't understand why Dante Lam didn't even bother to make the villains more interesting. There are billions of low budget Bollywood films with the same ingredients as The Viral Factor which have better villains and soap opera elements. And the majority of them are awful but so much more fun to watch. Point is that films like these need to be fun. Soap operas whether you like them or not are popular for a reason. There are a number of factors why that is. But I guess it's the combination of over the top extravaganza with familiarity. Characters often go through recognizable events. These characters get to act out what real people only fantasize of doing. None of the characters in this film do anything surprising or creative. Every step and action they take is predictable to a tee. So boring! 

Overall a very disappointing affair even for Dante Lam.

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Review Dollar for the Dead (TV movie 1998): Tribute to the Spaghetti western in John Woo style!

genre: western, action, bullet ballet

Now before you get all excited after reading the tagline, a word of caution. Dollar for the Dead is a TV movie with most likely a very low budget. Since it looks and feels like a very amateurish production. There are fan made films that look better. That being said there is a charm to the film.

The fact that it plays out like an old school Spaghetti western is a big plus for me. Somehow for me those are more fun. Probably because they are rawer and more stylish. What makes Dollar for the Dead a little more unique and charming is the fact that it has added Hong Kong style action or rather John Woo type of bloodshed. Heavily flawed since the editing and the use of slow motion is not consistent. Also the choreography is not of the super high standard that John Woo has set. It's funny how director Gene Quintano was more inspired by John Woo than Sam Peckinpah who had inspired Woo into adapting his own unique style. The Wild Bunch for example is very reminiscent of what John Woo is populair for. In any case, again proof that the master is unapproachable. He is far more than just doves and slowmo like most think. But I can't deny that there are some surprising moments infused by Quintano that brought a smile to my face. Totally ridiculous and over the top but fun. It's unfortunate that Quintano doesn't know how to build up momentum properly. Largely the bad editing is the cause of this. Too often it happens that you are taken out of the action or that scenes end without making it clear of what is going on. 

In one scene for example a bunch of soldiers including villain Jordi Molla as Federale captain are attacking the protagonist called Cowboy (played by Emilio Estevez) and his comrade in arms Dooley (played by William Forsythe). The captain is shot. Then not shown again. I assumed he was dead. Then in a couple of scenes after he you seem him prancing around without a scratch on him. 

It's unnecessarily confusing and removes any tension. I think this is the biggest flaw. It barely feels there is something at stake. I mean Emilio Estevez has enough charm to make you root for him but at times it does seem he is not entirely present. His performance is a far cry from his Billy role in Young Guns. Then again, he is not even named. People just refer to him as Cowboy. Very much in the same vein as the man without a name. So in a way it fits the film. But I did miss drama. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for example interchanged action with comedy and drama. Actually the drama was at the forefront. It was the one element that tied everything together and makes it the masterpiece that it is. Is it fair of me to compare this small little tv film with a cinematic masterpiece? Of course not. But even small films can be great. And Dollar for the Dead is pretty average in that regard.

One to watch on a rainy Sunday or very late at night. 

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Review Venom (2018): Entertaining but stupid!

genre: comic book adaptation, super hero, action, science fiction

Once it was announced that a Venom film was in the making my initial reaction was of bewilderment. I mean it didn't make much sense to me. Especially when it was going to be one without having an attachment to Spider-man. Venom was one of Spider-man's most interesting villains especially when Carnage came around. I remember the chaos and devastation he caused and how Spider-man and Venom were forced to work together to defeat him. The dynamics between these characters was phenomenal. It made these stories (Maximum Carnage) so compelling. So how can you even begin to make a film where Venom is featured without having Spider-man tied to it?

And after having seen the mid-credits and end credits scene it is even more baffling. The simple answer is you can't. So what you get is a film about an iconic character who on his own is not that interesting. Because I am sorry to say that this Venom has not much bite in him. He is too kind, too PG rated. The Venom I know from the comics and videogames is more vicious and evil. He had no problem consuming and killing people. It's what made him the exact opposite of what Spider-Man stood for. But ok I guess the idea is that Venom is a hero and not a villain. A hero who occasionally will feed on bad people's brains. An anti-hero so to speak. I haven't read Marvel comics in years but I have read that this is the path he is currently on. All fine and dandy. If not for the fact that it makes him a little boring. Venom as a villain makes much more sense to me. He is far too sympathetic and charming in the film. And of course this is mostly because of the way he is portrayed by Tom Hardy. Still I had hoped that they would have allowed him to go crazy like he did in the comics. And unfortunately this never happens. It's all too kid friendly. 

Don't get me wrong. It's incredibly entertaining. I mean Tom Hardy and the symbiote are cracking jokes like there is no tomorrow. They way they interact with each other is part of the fun. That and the action was solid enough. So no complaints from me on that front. But I didn't buy Riz Ahmed as the villain nor was I impressed with Riot. They simply did not put in the fear or dread as much as they could and should have. There was nothing horrifying or scary about any of the events. Think about it. You have an alien life form that can transform itself into anything it wants. It's original form is basically a mass of black oily liquid that can form thick, long and strong tendrils. Ever played the Prototype games? Whenever Alex Mercer transforms or uses his powers you can see a bunch of tendrils coming out of him. It never ceases to terrify. Because the whole tone of the game and how Alex Mercer is portrayed makes it a terrifying affair. In Venom nothing looks remotely scary. 

I can't say that I was disappointed. I knew it was going to be stupid. But I had hoped that it would be crazier and darker. Why not have Venom consume brains on screen? And have him decapitate people? Why not let Erick Brock be despicable and terrifying? Venom is tame. And not the way I want Venom to be portrayed. Despite I was enjoying myself mainly because of the comedy and Tom Hardy's charm. So it won't be a complete waste of your time.

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Review The Happytime Murders (2018): Calm down! Your childhood memories aren't going to be ruined.

genre: action, comedy, crime

When the trailer was announced, some people cried murder. Claiming their childhood was going to be ruined since Brian Henson was set out to destroy his father's legacy. And to be honest. I had mixed emotions myself even though I couldn't help but laugh at some of the sex scenes.

Then it occurred to me that people falsely asssume that puppetry is intended for kids only. People mostly have the same feelings regarding cartoons. And as many anime shows and films have already demonstrated that this is a very wrong notion. Cartoons and puppetry could very well be intended for adults only. And if that is the case people shouldn't be so angry at all. Of course The Happytime Murders is playing with this notion since it does try to shock people. But very much in the same vein as Family Guy does. Also I am wondering why people are so surprised about Brian Henson taking this path. Did they forget about Farscape? It had puppets too. And that show was intended for adults as well.

Problem is that apart from the crude jokes the actual comedy is not that strong. A parody on Basic Instinct for example isn't really that funny. I mean it was nice to recognize the reference and it did serve the plot but other than that it simply didn't make me laugh. Maybe if this film had been released shortly after Basic Instinct it would have had more impact.

Strangely enough if you ignore the comedy elements The Happytime Murders seems more like a buddy cop film where the two unlikely partners are burdened with a murder mystery. As a whodunnit it's pretty decent since they did their best to keep you guessing by for example giving you some effective red herrings. As a buddy cop film however it fails a little since not that much is done with the concept. Although I think it's mostly due to Melissa McCarthy inability to play around with others. I acknowledge that she can be funny at times. But to say she is a comedic genius? I just don't see how. She basically does the same trick over and over again and sometimes it works out and often it doesn't. Still, she wasn't annoying and that is a huge plus.

One very important element that seems to be ignored by critics is the fact that the puppets are being treated like black people in the US. The people view them as second rate citizens at best and even then they feel that the puppets should be happy and jolly to serve their human masters. This issue is rarely being discussed or is part of the plot but it is pointed out at times. And when it does I thought those moments were quite serious and strong. These moments though probably will be lost on the people too focused on the sex scenes. Most people only see what they want to see. And maybe in a way The Happytime Murders brilliantly demonstrates why racism is still an issue in our society. 

Overall The Happytime Murders is not a bad film. It's heavily flawed but has more heart than most recent productions. My advice it to give it a chance at least and you will get more from it.


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Filmography Wu Jing (Jackie Wu)

Here are all the titles where Wu Jing starred in as an actor. His list might not be that long compared to Donnie Yen or Jet Li. But I get the feeling he has a lot more coming. And I personally can't wait for him to do so. Although I hope he has learned not to be in dumb films like Fatal Move.

        Tai Chi II (1996) ... Hok Man
  New Shaolin Temple (2000) ... Jiao Yuan
  The Legend of Zu (2001) ... Ying
  Drunken Monkey (2003) ... Tak
  SPL (2005) ... Jet (Jack)
  Fatal Contact (2006) ... Ko Kong
  Twins Mission (2007) ... Lau Hay/Lau San
  Invisible Target (2007) ... Tien Yeng Seng
  Fatal Move (2008) ... Lok Tin Hung
  Legendary Assassin (2008) ... Bo Tong Lam
  L for Love L for Lies (2008) ... Michael
  Metallic Attraction: Kungfu Cyborg (2009) ... K-88
  City Under Siege (2010) ... Sun Hao
  Love Tactics (2010)  
  Wind Blast (2010) ... Yang Xiaoming, Shepherd
  Just Another Pandora's Box (2010) ... Chief guard
  Shaolin (2011) ... Jing Neng
  Magic to Win (2011) ... Bi Yewu, Fire Magician
  Badges of Fury (2013) ... Insurance man
  The Breakup Guru (2014)  
  Wolf Warriors (2015) ... Sgt. Leng Feng
  Call of Heroes (2016) ... Zhang Yi
  A Chinese Odyssey: Part Three (2016) 
  Wolf Warrior 2 (2017) ... Leng Feng

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