Monday, June 30, 2014

Comment: This is why I am still collecting DVDs

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Movie Review: The Front Line (Gojijeon)

The Front Line (Gojijeon)
Director: Hun Jang
Starring: Shin Ha-kyun, Ko Soo, Lee Je-Hoon, Ryu Seung-Soo, Ko Chang-Seok, Lee David, Ryoo Seung-Yong, Kim Ok-Vin, Cho Jin-Woong 
Showbox/ Mediaplex and TPS Company, South Korea, 2011.


In the final days of Korean war negotiations about ceasefire are on the way. The battle of Aerok Hill will decide the location of the future border line. Lieutenant Kang Un-Pyo (Shin Ha-kyun, also known for JSA and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) is sent to front line as an undercover agent. Kang must investigate the murder of an officer and find a possible North Korean mole. However at the front line the military discipline is low and soldiers are wearing enemy uniforms to keep warm.
South Koreans attacking Aerok Hill
In the early days of the war Kang's friend Kim Soo-hyeok (Ko Soo) was captured by North Korean soldiers. However Kang is surprised when Kim turns out to be alive and has turned into ruthless warrior.
Kang and Kim after battle

In the hill bunker is also a mail box where North Koreans leave booze as reward for delivering mail to their relatives in South Korea. South Koreans leave also chocolate and cigarettes in the mail box. Kang has to see the graying of moral values in the war. He also learns about the hardships his company has gone through.
North Korean soldiers

Aerok Hill is captured consecutively by both parties. The troops are battling for an area that has become a mass grave. The reinforcements from Chinese army seem to tip the balance in North Korea's favour. Also the North Koreans have a deadly sniper called "Two seconds". The defense of the hill becomes the last stand battle for the South Korean soldiers.
The beginning of the last battle

Compared to recent Korean war films Taegugki (2004) and Pohwasogeuro (2010) the movie does not share the same ferocity of the action scenes but focuses more on the psychological stress war causes on soldiers. The movie contrasts the war damaged Kim and Kang who is trying to keep his moral values. The soldiers on both sides have forgotten the reason why they fight.
North and South sharing the last smoke together
 Rating: Very good

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Movie Review: Lego The Movie

Lego The Movie
Director: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Voice actors: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie,
Charlie Day, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson
Village Roadshow Pictures, Animal Logic. USA, Australia, Denmark, 2014

Emmet having good time with his friend the plant.
Emmet is a regular guy who works at construction site. One day he finds a weird piece attached to his back. He is captured by Bad Cop and Lord Business' robot minions. Evil Lord Business wants to keep everything in control and is preparing to destroy the world by glueing everything in static position.
Your worst nightmare
A woman named Wyldstyle saves Emmet and they flee to Old West. Wizard Vitruvius tells that there will be the Special person who will save the world. However Emmet's lack of creativity causes doubt. They escape and meet Batman. The next stop is Cloud Cuckooland, the anarchistic kingdom of Princess Unikitty. 
Wyldstyle and Vitruvius react to Emmet's ideas
Now that was unexpected
There are almost no rules in Unikitty's land except the ban of unhappy thoughts. After escaping some more times the team seeks out to stop Lord Business. Just when everything seems to go bad Emmet has an eye opening experience.
Please do not make Unikitty unhappy. Seriously.
The movie puts creative chaos against rigid order. Lord Business excepts that everyone must follow instructions, whereas the heroes of the film want to innovate freely.
Lord Business feeling victorious
Another surprise at doorstep
 There are numerous cameos by Lego minifigures inspired by various movie characters or pop icons, but sadly no Clutch Powers. The animation is partially CGI and partially stop-motion. Everything is made of Legos, even the sea. In close-ups the irregularities of the brick surfaces look very realistic! The voices of robot minions are hilarious and cat and pig voices are done by some dude saying meow or oink. The soundtrack also has an industrial song by Batman. The movie has a great entertainment value and also makes some points about creativity and mass culture.
Pig says: Oink!
Here is a catchy ear-worm to keep the people under control happy:

Rating:Very good

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Review: Elder Scrolls Novels: The Infernal City and Lord of Souls

Elder Scrolls Novels: The Infernal City and Lord of Souls
by Gregory Keyes
Titan Books, 2010 & 2011, Great Britain.

The happenings in these two books occur 40 years the incidents in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Lord of Souls is direct continuation of the story started in the Infernal City. An flying city of Umbriel appears from the Oblivion (realm of the Daedric demon lords) and insectoid creatures start harvesting the souls of  people living in the continent of Tamriel. Umbriel also creates an undead army and proceeds toward the Imperial city.

Annaig, a young alchemist girl and her Argonian (lizard man) friend Mere-Glim infiltrate the flying city by using levitation potion. At the same time prince Attrebus and Colin (imperial security agent and assassin) try to stop the crisis with help of Sul, a Dunmer (dark elf) previously trapped in Oblivion.

Annaig and Mere-Glim find out that the inhabitants of Umbriel gradually become part of the city and can not leave. They become the slaves with Annaig becoming a chef for Daedric lords and Glim working in Sump, an area used to grow the inhabitants living in Umbriel. The kitchen is an dangerous place to work because the rival chefs often attempt to murder their rivals. Also other notable persons trying to save Tamriel are female orc-warrior Mazgar and wizard Brennus who are defending the refugees and Imperial city.

The books assume that the reader knows something about Elder Scrolls universe, its different races and how the magic works (the games themselves contain massive amounts of lore and detail, with vastness comparable to Lord of the Rings). The story bridges some happenings that occurred after Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and before Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, such as the destruction of Vivec city and most of Morrowind (so much for saving the neighbourhood in Elder Scrolls III). As a game tie-in the story is good and exciting fantasy adventure.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Movie Review: Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers

Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers
Director: Howard E. Baker
Voice actors: Ryan McPartlin, Yvonne Strahovski, Paul Michael Glaser, Roger Rose, Jeff Bennett
Tinseltown Toons Inc., Universal Studios. UK/USA, 2010

The first Lego-movie stars Indiana Jones style adventurer Clutch Powers who can build almost everything using Lego bricks. When evil wizard Mallock escapes from space prison Clutch teams with firefighter Brick Materson, engineer Bernie von Beam and biologist Peg Mooring. From space prison they continue their adventure to medieval times where they must save the kingdom of prince Varen from Mallock and his skeleton army.
Clutch, Peg, Brick & Bernie
Evil Mallock taunting the heroes
The animation is good for video CGI animation. The adventure story has plenty of funny moments and action. There are also jolly side characters Hogar the troll and silly minions of Mallock Skelly and Bones. Also the properties of Lego bricks are nicely used (the characters build things, switch hairs etc). The film spoofs many scifi and fantasy movies (at least Aliens, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Army of Darkness and Armageddon). 
Prince Varen with Hogar the troll.

Skelly & Bones enjoying the show
The makers seem to be also fans of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, in Clutch's father's notebook one page is devoted to exploring Ayleid ruins.
Ayleid Ruins: Will we see Lego Elder Scrolls someday :) ?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Movie Review: Shadow

Director: Federico Zampaglione
Starring: Jake Muxworthy, Chris Coppola, Karina Testa, Ottavino Blitch, Nuot Arquint
Ellemme Group Production, Italy, 2010

Iraq war veteran David goes to mountain cycling on Italian Alps. He meets pretty Angeline who is harassed by British hunters. Later he meets the girl again and they have to flee from the heavily armed angry yobs.
David fancying a beer
Soon all of them are being hunted by a skinny guy. The skinny nazi enjoys torturing people without any particular reason. They try to escape with bad results. The ending has a surprisingly logical twist.
Not so nice lads
The film manages creating creepy atmosphere. The photography and sceneries are good. The movie is relatively modest in gore (still offering some icky scenes). The music has some nods to the old Italian horror flicks by Dario Argento an Lucio Fulci (also in credits 70s Italian horror directors are acknowledged!).
Skinny weirdo turning a switch

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Movie Review: Ip Man

Ip Man (Yip Man)
Director: Wilson Yip
Starring: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Xiong Dai Lin. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Lam Ka-Tung
Mandarin Films Distribution Co. Ltd. Hong Kong, 2008.

Ip Man was a legendary grandmaster of Wing Chun kung fu style and also a mentor of Bruce Lee. Lately there has been quite a flood of movies with Ip Man as main character. The handling is often quite similar to Wong Fei Hung movies (Once Upon a Time in China series) with high entertainment values but quite low historical accuracy. Likewise the strong Chinese patriotism is also present in Ip Man.
Donnie Yen as Ip Man
Ip Man is set in 1930s Foshan, where kung fu schools test their skills against each other. Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is the most skilled martial artist but his wife Cheung Wing-Sing (Xiong Dai Ling) does not like it because she feels that he is neglecting his son Yip Chun (Li Chak). Therefore he is at first reluctant to fight Northern Chinese challenger Jin Shan Zhao (Siu-Wong Fan) who is challenging and humiliating local kung fu masters.
A challenger appears
After Japanese invasion, Ip Man's house is confiscated and his family is forced to live in poverty. The Japanese test their martial arts skills and some of Ip Man's friends are killed. Eventually Ip Man is forced to fight against a Japanenese general Miura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi).
With the Japanese things get serious
The historical accuracy is low but there are also some real accidents adapted, such as Ip Man knocking out the chamber of a revolver using only his fingers. Action legend Sammo Hung who has worked with many Wing Chun films worked as an action director for fight scenes. For the fans of the genre Ip Man is an excellent old school style kung fu film.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Movie Review: Summer Wars

Summer Wars (Sama Wozu)
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Voice actors: Ryonosuke Kamiki, Nanami Sakuraba, Mitsuki Tanimura, Sumiko Fuji
Madhouse, NTV, Kadokawa Group Publishing. Japan, 2009

Kenji is a mathematical genius working as moderator of virtual world Oz with his friend Takashi. The users of the Oz use avatars to interact with the virtual reality. A girl named Natsuki asks Kenji for help as she travels to his home to celebrate the 90th birthday of her great-grandmother Sakae. Natsuki's family the Jinnouchis are revealed to be an old samurai clan. Much to Kenji's surprise Natsuki introduces Kenji as her boyfriend. The plan is that Keiji pretends to be Natsuki's fiance to make great-grandmother happy. Natsuki's uncle Wabisuke who was living in America after stealing some of the family's money arrives one night. This causes some tension with the family. 
Welcome to Oz
Kenji and Takashi moderating the Oz

At night Kenji gets an coded message to solve. Next day someone  uses Kenji's identity to vandalize Oz. Rogue artificial intellingence program Love Machine has started to attack Oz and is stealing avatars. Also the sabotaging causes also damage in the real world. Luckily Natsuki's family members have access to military grade hardware so together Kenji and Jinnouchis start a war against Love Machine.
Love Machine
The movie combines the traditional Japanese family ties with modern social networking culture. There is a huge cast of characters. It has funny moments and spectacular virtual reality fights. As a sci-fi  movie Summer Wars resembles a bit WarGames. However some twists are quite absurd. Also I do not think that the film has the same emotional level as Studio Ghibli films. However all in all the movie is fun and entertaining.
Jinnouchis' avatars ready for battle

Movie Review: Boiler Room

Boiler Room
Director: Ben Younger
Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Nicky Katt, Ben Affleck
New Line Cinema, USA, 2000

Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) is running an illegal gambling den but his father who is working as a judge finds it out and forces Seth to get a real job. He gets a job at J.T. Marlin as a stock broker trainee. The brokers are earning huge salaries. He becomes good at his job but never gains his father's approval. Soon Seth realises that the company is scamming investors and selling worthless stock. Also the FBI becomes interested in Seth.
Seth in the job interview
Although Boiler Room has a quite routine business thriller plot, it is actually a good movie about telemarketing and macho salesmen. It offers also some tips about cold calling for those interested.
Vin Diesel has a role as senior broker and Ben Affleck a role as the co-founder of the firm. Nia Long plays the romantic interest of Seth.

Busy day at the office

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Movie Review: Storage 24

Storage 24
Director: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Noel Clarke, Colin O'Donoghue, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Laura Haddock, Ned Dennehy, Geoff Bell
Medient Unstoppable Limited, UK, 2012
 A transport plane crashes near self storage facility in London and a group of people are trapped inside. One of them is Charlie (Noel Clarke) who was dumped by his girlfriend Shelley (Antonia Campbell-Hughes). Soon a monster starts to kill people one by one. Charlie and the other survivors start to search for ways to battle the alien monster.
Alien giving Charlie a hug
The movie is quite low budget Alien clone with some gory deaths. There are some funny moments also. Most of the characters are generic and bland, but there are also some interesting characters such as weird man David (Ned Dennehy) who is living in the facility. Positive was also the British Scifi-horror touch. In my opinion the film was above average in the category of low budget monster horror films.
I'm going to brush your teeth!
Rating: Good

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