Bad Panda Reviews

Director: Nicolas Vanier
Starring: Felix Bossuet, Tcheky Karyo, Margaux Chatelier, Dimitri Storoge, Andreas Pietschmann

6th Feb 2014 in Hong Kong cinemas

movie trailer (English subtitle)


Review: Oblivion Blu-Ray

Posted by Bad Panda on August 26, 2013 (0 Comments)

It is actually quite difficult to try to explain the plot in any great detail without revealing spoilers that would ruin any potential enjoyment of the movie. Suffice to say in 2017, aliens arrive and destroy the moon, which in turn causes the Earth to endure apocalyptic natural disasters. Humanity manage to avail in the impending invasion but at the cost of the inhabitability of Earth (if in doubt, nuke'em). Sixty years later, all the remaining inhabitants of Earth are relocated to Titan, the largest moon orbiting Saturn and the Earth's remaining seawater is siphoned off by as a reserve to create fusion energy for the needs of the people. This history is implied, as the aforementioned events are narrated by the main character, Jack (Tom Cruise), at the beginning. Along with his companion, and communications officer, Vika (Andrea Riseborough), they are the last humans on Earth, assigned to repair the drones that protect the reactors from small bands of remaining alien "Scavs" hiding underground. The pair report to and receive orders from their superiors who are located on a massive space station/mothership called the "Tet" orbiting the planet. For security purposes, they have their long-term memories wiped, so as to have no recollection of who they were before. With two weeks to go before the siphoning process is complete, the pair are waiting to relocate to Titan. A chain of events leads Jack to question the purpose of his mission, especially after he saves a human survivor, the mysterious Julia (Olga Kurylenko), who he seemd connected to...

The first impression is that the scenery and set designs are striking. There are no two ways about it, this movie is beautifully crafted, and the aesthetics will live long in the memory. Such care and design has been been placed in the implementation, it cannot be faulted. From the desolate, isolated surroundings to the clean, clinical designs of the tech. The electronic score and unique sounding sound effects (very similar to Tron: Legacy) also compliments the action and drama to a tee. This could very well be a showcase disc to to impress your friends with on your HDTV and sound system.

Oblivion isn't paced like an average Hollywood summer blockbuster but it is well-conceived sci-fi. It is sophisticated (for a big budget Hollywood movie anyway) and treats the viewer with a modicum of intelligence. Breadcrumbs are carefully laid throughtout for the viewer to piece together the puzzle. Conceptually, it plays like it could be a very expensive 2 hour episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. There are other influences for sure, Wall-E and I Am Legend spring to mind. It is not easy to create something without it looking like it has been recycled from films past but this movie has its own identity. The director definitely has his stamp all over this movie. Cruise creates a believable character and handles the action sequences with aplomb. In fact the performances all-round were spot on, although Morgan Freeman is under-used in his role.

Critics have moaned that this is an exercise in style over substance. I don't prescribe to this opinion, as this movie has a soul, and at its heart is a protagonist who is on a journey to discover what it means to be human, along with notions that love and emotions can transcend science and technology. All in all, a solid and effective sci-fi movie.


Review: Saving General Yang (2013)

Posted by Bad Panda on May 27, 2013 (0 Comments)
The Original Seven Samurai!

To be honest I wasn't particularly looking forward to this film after a domestic advertising campaign that made it look more like a Hong Kong Chippendales movie rather than a medieval action war epic. After several failed attempts in this genre of late (furious finger-pointing in the general direction of Legendary Amazons and White Vengeance), and after an inauspicious first ten minutes, I was pleasantly surprised. Saving General Yang runs at a very brisk pace and the action set-pieces complement the quieter moments very well.

The story revolves around an old, partially-true tale of the Yang clan in the Chinese Song dynasty, specifically the part where General Yang (Adam Cheng, in a long-awaited return to movies) is left stranded in no-man's land after being deceived, and his seven sons go into the wolf's lair to try and rescue him. At first glance, it does sound like a mash-up of Saving Private Ryan and Seven Samurai set in medieval China, and some will point to similarities with Kurosawa's masterpiece, but I would add that the original tale actually preceded Seven Samurai (and Magnificent Seven) by several centuries.  

Saving General Yang is actually a very well crafted movie, with good attention to detail. It has the look of an expensive movie, and the average CGI effects do not spoil or enhance the action (I did doubt the existence of trebuchets in that time period in China whilst watching this, but it seems that it was historically possible at the time!). The action set-pieces are well constructed and a concerted effort had been made to make the action as realistic as possible. The amount of wire work is kept to a bare minimal (more for saftety during filming rather than to create gravity-defying stunts...this isn't a wushu pic). It's a movie made on an epic scale but it actually tells a simplistic story and idea of loyalty, brotherhood and honour. Overt sentimentality is reigned in to prevent the film from suffering from melodrama. Really, this film could have gone terribly wrong. If you compare this to a thematically similar Legendary Amazons, which had a messy script, poor direction and execution and a huge dose of melodrama for characters you have no empathy for, Saving General Yang is a polar opposite. It's an enjoyable movie, not exactly a classic, but still the best Chinese medieval war film in recent years!

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray Blu-Ray (both region free!).

Adam Cheng, Xu Fan, Ekin Cheng, Yu Bo, Vic Chou, Li Chen, Raymond Lam, Wu Chun, Fu Xin Bo, Shao Bing, Ady An, Leung Ka Yan

Director: Ronny Yu

Action Director: Tung Wai

In cinema 4th April 2013 (HK)




Review: Lesson Of The Evil (2012)

Posted by Bad Panda on June 07, 2013 (0 Comments)

Return to the Dark Side!

After making a series of more light-hearted fare, like live-action versions of Yatterman, Ninja Kids, Zebraman 2 and Ace Attorney, Miike returns to his roots in this portrait of a serial killer. It also presents a complete role-reversal for the hero from the Umizaru movie series, Hideaki Ito.

The scene is set in a Japanese private high school in Tokyo, where Hasumin has recently been employed as a home room teacher (and specialising in English). Although outwardly handsome, intelligent, charming and respectable, and sharing a rapport with his students, he has a hidden side that he shares with no-one. From the early scenes, it is revealed that he is manipulative and conniving, and unafraid of performing illegal and immoral acts, as he tries to deal with cheating in exams, bullying and extortion. Hasumin plays his mind games, gathering information to blackmail people, and he slowly and inextricably catches more flies in his web, including a sexual relationship with one of his female students. This escalates to murder when the opportunity presents itself, as Hasumin carefully executes a plan to kill a disrespectful and angry parent and makes it look like an accident. This arouses suspicion from a nosy teacher and leads to a spate of " accidents" and "suicides", as Hasumin evades detection...  <br="" />
In the first act, if you missed the bone-chilling first scene, this could very easily have been mistaken for a coming of age school drama. This is an effective ploy, as it draws the audience into the lives and character of the students, making them more rounded human beings, so when the inevitable unfolds, it makes it all the more horrifying. There is never any real insight into Hasumin's motivation and he has no reason to be a psychopath other than it being his nature. Although well capable of feigning charm, emotion and social behaviour, Hasumi is cold and calculating, without empathy or emotion. His residence is like a reflection of his psyche. Nothing is done out of impulse. Each plan is born from the need to tie up loose ends when relationships reach an impasse and the massacre only occurs due to a misjudgement in his planning. But he will do anything to prevent his true nature from being revealed...

This is a great addition if you are a Miike fan, as this is as intense and extreme as many of his other famous works. This film has been compared with Battle Royale, and the level of violence is similar, but whereas the former is a (very dark) black comedy, Lesson Of The Evil is far more real (despite the gimmicky shotgun pellet vs arrow CGI shot). This is definitely not for the faint of heart, so if you are easily offended please do NOT watch this!

I'll never look at a soldering iron in the same way again!

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray Blu-Ray (DVD is Region 3 and BD is Region A). 

Ito Hideaki, Fukikoshi Mitsuru, Yamada Takayuki, Takaoka Saki,Hayashi Kento, Sometani Shota, Kojima Fujiko

Miike Takashi

In cinema 4th April 2013 (HK)



The King of Comedy Returns! 

Stephen Chow's new film is finally on release! After becoming a virtual recluse, having made only three movies in the 21st century (not counting his cameo appearance in "The Founding of the Republic", or his voice in the CJ7 cartoon), he is back for number four! He has taking more and more of a backseat role as his screen time in his movies since Shaolin Soccer has been ever-diminishing, now to the point that he doesn't even appear in The Journey West. Placing all his efforts behind the camera has paid off though because, although this film bares the trademark of a Stephen Chow movie, he is not really missed in fron of the camera. Chow could very easily have played the main protagonist, Xuan Zang, but in utilising Wen Zhang, he has created a younger, more innocent and optimistic character.

The plot basically acts as a prequel to "The Journey West" story, which is renowned throughot the world in one guise or another. The original novel itself is one of the four great novels in China (along with The Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dream of the Red Chamber). Xuan Zang is a young and inexperienced buddhist demon-hunter who wanders around trying, unsuccessfully, to capture demons. He chances upon a riverside village (an incredibly lavish set) that is terrorised by a river demon, only to be pummelled at the end after trying to pacify the demon by singing from a book of "300 Nursey Rhymes" before being saved by Miss Duan, a "real" demon-hunter. The second act centres around capturing a powerful pig demon, and after that, a fateful trip to locate the Monkey King, Sun Wukong.    

Chow has managed to weave together a film that is not only very funny, but also at times has moments of high drama. There are a plethora of Chow's trademark oddball characters, all very effective comedy fodder. It is unfortunate that, along with many other Stephen Chow movies, the verbal jousting or "mo lei tou" comedy in Cantonese being largely colloquial, gets lost in translation. It completely loses its meaning in English. However, there is still ample content in here to be appreciated by western audiences (for example, what on earth is a manta ray doing in a river, but it is this kind of absurdity that makes it funny). The CGI is reasonably well executed and complements the action. What is important is that it doesn't detract from the movie, and it doesn't.

The roles are well-cast, each playing their part to perfection. The standouts are Shu Qi, who doesn't often get to be so brash and violent, and Huang Bo has a delightful turn as the Monkey King, playing him to great comedy effect and then with great malevolence. Wen Zhang plays a "young Stephen Chow" to good effect too. What doesn't play so well is the romanticisation of the relationship between Xuan Zang and Miss Duan, as throughout it seems more akin to "playground love" rather than anything deep or substantial, so at the end the payoff is not as effective as it could have been.

Chow's movies are usually thematically very Chinese and are tailored for Chinese audiences, and if international audiences can appreciate it, then it is a bonus (Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle also follows this trail). Although Chow's film is tonally Chinese, there are (not so subtle) light-hearted nods to Spielberg's Jaws in the first scene; then there is the pig spirit that would not look out of place in Princess Mononoke's forest. Where Miyasaki is talking about the importance of nature and the environment, Journey To The West intimates upon ideas such as fate and karma.

After such a long hiatus, expectations are naturally high. What we have is a thoroughly entertaining tale set to the wavelength of what we would expect from a Stephen Chow comedy. There are some terrific set-pieces and many laugh out loud moments. This is more Kung Fu Hustle than CJ7. We will look forward to his next a few years time perhaps! 

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray Blu-Ray (DVD is Region 3 and BD is Region A). 

Starring:Shu Qi, Wen Zhang, Huang Bo, Show Luo, Chrissie Chau, He Wen Hui, Yang Di, Zhao Zhi Ling, Li Shang Zheng, Chen BingQiang

Stephen Chow, Derek Kwok

Stephen Chow

In cinema 7th Feb 2013 (HK)