Category Archives: action

Blade of the Immortal Poignant Tale of Samurai Redemption

Directed by Takashi Miike, Blade of the Immortal is his 100th film. Miike is best known for directing the popular samurai movie 13 Assassins about the end of Japan’s feudal era.

Immortal follows Manji, played honestly by Takuya Kimura, a highly skilled samurai, who becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. The foreboding of being haunted by the brutal murder of his sister drives Manji to continue fighting evil. He cannot die and is cursed with the pain of being sliced and hacked with swords forever more.

I found myself chuckling a couple of times when his severed hand would magically snap back to his arm. The effects were done well but a couple of shots seemed fake.

Manji wants to be able to die and regain his soul. He comes across a young girl named Rin, played beautifully by Hana Sugisaki. Sugisaki also plays his sister, which offers a correlation between him helping Rin for the sake of his deceased sister.

He promises to help the young girl avenge her parents’ death. They were killed by a group of master swordsmen led by ruthless warrior Anotsu, played by Sôta Fukushi.

The movie is in Japanese and English with English subtitles. The story is well told because Manji’s mission changes him. Kimura portrayal of Manji captured my interest and kept me watching the movie because as he changes even Manji cannot believe what is happening to him.  I am right there with him all the way.

For those who love samurai movies, this is a must to see.  The Blu-ray Special Features include a poster gallery, cast interviews, which are educational for anyone who studies movies, trailers, and a poignant interview with Takuya Kimura.

Extraordinary Mission Brutal and Raw

From Alan Mak and Felix Chong, co-writers of The Departed and director of Infernal Affairs, the movie follows Lin Kai, played by Huang Xuan, in Extraordinary Mission. The movie is razor sharp with intense lighting that heightens the tension in each scene.

The movie takes place in Hong Kong where crime is center staged. Lin Kai is an undercover officer delegated to break through the Twin Eagles drug cartel. The story moves fast and the shots are tight. I never found my thoughts wandering.  The subtitles were tough to follow at times because the movie moved fast with raw intensity.

Yihong Duan plays an impressive cartel boss and a firm conviction in his ruthlessness.  Seeing both Xuan and Duan in scenes together was like watching a full charged emotional push-and-pull. Their scenes were not just a cat and mouse game.  It was brutal and raw.

The movie takes a turn that I was not expecting. Xuan acting talent shines when Kai is coerced into gradual drug addiction while attempting to locate the cartel’s production base.  Being strung out on drugs creates more complications when Kai realizes Eagle has been plotting a violent revenge against his supervisor Li Jianguo, played by Jiadong Xing, for over a decade.

The ending is brutal but fun to watch.  The creative minds of Mak and Chong is a vision you don’t want to miss.

Andy Lau’s Shock Wave High-Action

Written and directed by Herman Yau, Shock Wave is spellbinding with all the action scenes in the movie. The fact that it seized the #1 box office spot in China and Hong Kong when it hit theaters speaks about how much explosive action there is in the movie. Producing the movie on a $23 million budget, Shock Wave is one of Hong Kong’s highest grossing domestic movies for 2017. Take a look at the movie’s trailer, and you will see what I mean.

The movie follows, Cheung Choi-san, played by Andy Lau, as he works as a bomb disposal expert among the busy streets of Hong Kong.  Along comes a terrorist who specializes in explosives, Hung Kai-pang, played by Jiang Wu, takes hold of the busy Cross-Harbor Tunnel. He threatens to kill hostages if his demands are not met.

This is a typical action movie plot, but the director executes these scenes is riveting, so unlike some American action movies. In Shock Wave, they are very realistic, almost scary. The movie is intense and kept my attention throughout even though there are English subtitles.

The movie has a flair for cat and mouse. Cheung effectively broke up Hung’s criminal gang, but in the course of the raid, Hung triumphs and escapes whereas his younger brother and allies are captured.

Seeking retribution for Cheung’s duplicity, Hung returns after seven years and plants a series of bombs in Hong Kong. The result is a public terror and attracts Cheung where he discovers the greatest plan for revenge.

The Blu-ray + DVD Combo is on the streets and includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, including an interview with Andy Lau.  Andy Lau is the most popular actor in China. His interview is worth purchasing the DVD.

Officer Downe

Directed by Shawn Crahan, Officer Downe is based on the graphic novel of the same name. The movie is a blood-soaked tale of resurrection, revenge, and justice as the story follows an immortal, crime-fighting police officer, played by Kim Coates, and his rookie sidekick, played by Tyler Ross, who learns that being stuck between doing what he thinks is right and what he thinks is best is not an easy task.

The best way to describe this movie is Sin City meets dark science technology. The L.A. policeman is repeatedly resurrected and returned to active duty through a mysterious technology. When a rookie officer named Gable arrives on the scene as backup, we get to see Downe in a different way because Gable discovers there’s much more to the super-cop than a mindless law enforcement super-cop warring against twisted over-the-top super-villains.

The way the movie is told with over the top acting and action might be enjoyable for those you are looking for mindless entertainment. There is no thinking involved with this movie but, like I said, you will be entertained. You might even laugh because it is so over-the-top and unreal.

Sure, there will be those who felt they wasted their time watching the movie because there really isn’t much to it besides mindless fun.

In Order of Disappearance

Directed by Hans Petter Moland and The New York Times critics’ pick, In Order of Disappearance stars Stellan Skarsgard, Pal Sverre Hagen and Bruno Ganz. The movie is filled with action and is constantly moving as a diehard thriller. The movie follows an honorable citizen, Nils, played by Skarsgard. He uncovers evidence that his son was murdered and a victim in a turf war between the local crime boss and his Serbian rivals. Following his discovery, Nils embarks on a quest for revenge.

The movie is very good because Nil is a fish out of the water. Introverted and hard-working snowplow driver Nils has just been named “Citizen of the Year.” When he receives news that his son has died of a heroin overdose, nothing seems to make sense.

Disbelieving the official report, Nils quickly uncovers evidence of the young man’s murder – a victim in a turf war between the local crime boss, known as “The Count”, and his Serbian rivals.

Armed with heavy machinery and a good amount of beginner’s godsend, Nils embarks upon a quest for revenge that soon escalates into a full-blown underworld gang war, with the body count spiraling ever higher and higher.

The movie is a rocket ride and hilarious in a very dark way. Skarsgard makes the movie great, and I have a fun time watching it.

Mechanic: Resurrection

mechanicresDirected by Dennis Gansel, the action-packed, thrill ride is the best way I can describe Mechanic: Resurrection because the movie takes off right at the get-go. Bullets spray and jaws get smashed with the starring power of Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop, an assassin who makes each of his targets’ deaths look like accidents, whose calm retirement is shattered when a former employer requires his services.

The movie also stars Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, and Michelle Yeoh.

The movie follows Bishop as he returns as the Mechanic in the sequel to the 2011 action-thriller. When the deceitful actions of a cunning but beautiful woman, played by Alba, force him to return to the life he left behind, Bishop’s life is once again in danger as he has to complete an impossible list of assassinations of the most dangerous men in the world.

Mechanic: Resurrection includes five behind-the-scenes featurettes looking at the development of the sequel, scoring the film, a breakdown of the Malaysian prison break sequence, and in-depth interviews with Michelle Yeoh and Jason Statham.

Tommy Lee Jones arrives but for not long. He still adds a lot of fun, which I enjoyed because he is a veteran and makes it look so easy. Jessica Alba looks good like a trophy. I just wish her character had more depth, but that is Hollywood for you. All in all, the movie is fast paced with tons of action and totally no-brainer entertainment. Any Statham fan will want to see this movie because it reeks action fight scenes only Statham knows how to do best.

The Hunger Games 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack

3d_rgb_hungergames4kultraocrd Lionsgate released the epic singularity franchise, The Hunger Games series on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, which includes both Blu-ray and Digital HD. All in all, it is an amazing product for such a gripping story.

As most remember, Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire, who took the world by storm with a four-film cumulative worldwide box office of 3 billion cash flow.

Fans can see the movies with four times the resolution of Full HD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) that delivers the brightest, most vivid and realistic color and greatest contrast from 4K Ultra HD.  However, similar to other 4K movies I have reviewed, the whole movie’s vivid, realistic color and contrast are not consistent. I find in the hand-held camera scenes of these 4K movies, the technical potential is limited, if not a bit shaky.

Don’t get me wrong. Checking out Lionsgate’s catalog 4K titles, I am impressed with the products so far. It makes watching movies at home so much better with the Dolby Atmos track sounds, which are incredible because it utilizes every speaker.

Now the quality of the look is a bit unforgiving because the effect is over the top.  Noticeably, in the first half of The Hunger Games. The colors are saturated and nearly grainy.  Watching the scene when the District 12 team is eating before the games is a good example where the colors, black levels, and overall clarity are below standards for the quality hype.

Disappointingly, just about every scene at The Capital looked saturated. When the movie arrives at the Games, I was impressed and in awe over the rich details of the overall setting in the forest and the way everything looked pristine.  It made watching the 4K version worth it.

One thing that didn’t help the 4K, as mentioned earlier, was the shaky-cam style.  In the first mad dash for supplies in the games, the camera was all over the place and the 4K clearness was like a second thought to the scene.  Even though about half the movies technical quality didn’t appear any better, if slightly worse, the other half of the movie is a pristine, vibrant upgrade and fun to watch.

The 4K version special features offer extras, which includes a commentary with Stephen Mirrione, Sheena Duggal, and Lon Bender. Even though they are not the stars or director, their passion for the movie come through, creating a worthwhile commentary.

3d_rgb_hgcatchingfire4kultraocrdDirected by Francis Lawrence, Catching Fire 4K

Ultra HD had the same technical issues I mentioned in The Hunger Games 4K Ultra HD.  The scenes in the training room and outside are clear and pristine like a gemstone. The crystal clear and the 4K upgrade really stands out.  Yet, the scenes in The Capitol, mostly most CGI, are saturated and almost blurry at times.  I noticed there is a bit more of an upgrade compared to The Hunger Games. I am curious as to why that is so.

The audio sounds perfect like the first film. The Dolby Atmos track is a wonderful upgrade and sounds faultless.

The 4K Ultra comes without exclusive features, but the package includes a copy of the Blu-ray.

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The Last King

the-last-king_rgb-3d-blurayThe Last King, directed by Oscar-nominated director Nils Gaup, follows an arduous and awe-inspiring journey through the snow-covered Norwegian mountains. Starring Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones), surprisingly, the movie turned out to be a great adventure story. With some awesome downhill, to die for, skiing stunts, so exhilarating. I totally enjoyed it.  The story has everything from action and drama to love and revenge.

The fact that this movie is based on true events intrigued me even more. It takes place in 1204 when the Norway had been in the middle of a civil war for decades because of a battle for the throne between the Norwegian King Håkon, son of legendary King Sverre of Norway, and the Church’s Bishop henchmen.

The King, on his deathbed after falling ill from a failed coup, soon welcomes a son, born in secrecy, with a woman named Inga of Varteig and that he is the heir to the throne. Yet, half the Kingdom wants the baby dead.

To shield their newborn King from those looking to end the family bloodline, two Birch Leg warriors, Torstein, played by Hivju, and Skjervald, played by Oftebro, make the arduous journey across the snow-covered terrain to return him and his mother safely to the kingdom.

For the life of me, I didn’t know what a “Birch Leg” was until I saw this movie. The birkebeinerne or “Birch Legs” (basically are the King’s men) who fought to protect him from the Baglers, an opposing party, supporting the Bishop of course, that wanted him dead and his bloodline ended.

The movie is not English and has subtitles, but after ten minutes into the movie. I didn’t notice the subtitles. The story captured my attention with the time period and the culture. The realistic battles and beautiful scenery of snow-covered trees and mountains and the Northern Lights filmed by Peter Mokrosinski stimulated my interest in finding out if the baby King will make it back and save the country.

With that, the history of this story is amazing because of what this baby represented for Norway. The movie is about the fierce fight that saved the life of the young child who was heir to the throne. He eventually ascended at the age of 13 and reigned for 46 years. It was a peaceful reign that united the country.

Games of Thrones fans will be happy to view this movie because both Oftebro and Hivju are believable warriors. They have a strong bond and also hold a strong sense of honor in protecting the baby. The rest of the cast complemented the story and made it richer in content. It’s a gem of a movie and worth watching.

Gridlocked

3D_CMYK_Gridlocked_DVDWrpDirected by Canadian Allan Ungar, Gridlocked is a typical action thriller resembling a combination of Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

The story follows former SWAT leader David Hendrix, played by Australian-born Dominic Purcell, is down on his luck and has failed to receive medical clearance after taking a bullet on the job. Despite being highly trained and competent, his efforts have been reduced to routine tasks for the NYPD. As if things couldn’t get any worse, he’s been forced to babysit movie star Brody Walker, played by Canadian and 5x World Karate Champion Cody Hackman, a hard-partying celebrity that’s been sent on a mandatory ride along as part of his probation.  Pampered and irritating, Walker is the last thing Hendrix needs. But all of that changes when a police training facility comes under attack by a team of ruthless mercenaries led by the mysterious Korver, played by Tony-nominated Stephan Lang.  Now, Hendrix and Walker must band together with the remaining survivors to fight back and keep the mercenaries from overtaking the compound. The only problem is Hendrix and Walker do not get along, and they just might kill each other before the mercenaries do.

Lethal Weapon’s Danny Glover plays fatherly-type Sully, and it great to see how him in this role and makes the movie more gratifying.  Other supporting actors such as Vinnie Jones and Trish Stratus do a pretty decent job of moving the story along, and the main mystery to the storyline is revealed about half way through the movie. With Purcell as a good guy and Vinnie as a bad guy, we all know where this goes with some manageable humor in their remarks in a teasing way

I am not going so far as to recommend the movie. But if you are looking for an action thriller that you haven’t seen yet, then stream or rent this one. It’s worth it.

Standoff

STANDOFF_bdskewWritten and directed by Adam Alleca, Standoff is a pretty good movie and stars Laurence Fishburne and Thomas Jane along with newcomer Ella Ballentine. The movie is an intense action-thriller that grabbed my attention because it bursts with energy and action while it pulses under my skin with twists and turns.

Alleca is the writer of Cell and Delirium, which are pretty good movies, too.  As a director, he delivers the punches about a story of redemption and the need to bond with someone.

Carter, played by Jane, is a troubled veteran, and he achieves his chance at redemption by protecting a 12-year-old girl named Bird from a deadly assassin, played by Fishburne after she witnesses a murder. Holding a shotgun with only a single shell, Jane engages in physical and psychological warfare in a desperate fight for the girl’s life.

Carter and Bird bond really nice as the story arcs, and the ending is worth watching because you might have to watch it three times to really see what happens because it is so strong.