Rampant (2018)

Director: Kim Sung-hoon

Starring: Hyun Bin, Dong-Gun Jang, Eui-sung Kim, Ju-hyuk Kim, Woo-jin Jo, Dal-hwan Jo, Derek Chouinard

This movie was produced by the same people who did Train to Busan and I have to answer the question does it top that movie? Not really, but it is a different movie and it seemed they wanted to go in another direction with it.

In a bit of a confusing prologue a ship on fire is raided and one of the party is attacked, only to turn and kill his whole family and the village. Cut to three days before and we see the rebels meeting with the smuggler on the ship to get weapons for a revolt.

The revolt is found out and the plotters are tortured to reveal the ringleaders, but the crown prince wants to spare the plotters as he is the real one behind it. He makes the ultimate sacrifice, taking his own life.

Prince Ganglim (Hyun Bin) arrives back in the country from Qing unaware that any attack has taken place. He is attacked by assassins and encounters the undead shortly after (they are referred to as ‘demons’ in the movie.) He ends up being rescued by a group of villagers who explain what happened and beg him to get help from the capital. He is a reluctant prince and does not want to go but eventually agrees when he sees how desperate the situation is.

Cut back to the capital and the war minister is making plans of his own including getting rid of one of the assassins who escaped the undead and making sure a concubine is attacked by a demon to spread the infection.

The film slows down a lot every time it cuts from the scenes with the zombies to the palace intrigue, it almost seems they are from different movies or from one of the popular Korean historical TV dramas. It seems to be something you would have in a TV series where you have more time to tell the story and not a movie.

The prince leaves the village with some protectors but they get stopped at a checkpoint and told only the prince can go to the capital. He promises to return with some soldiers.

The stakes go up once the action moves to the capital as there is an attack on the king and the zombie situation gets out of hand. The war minister has planned this as he wants to start again from scratch and not be subservient to the Qing dynasty.

They do have the guns from the smuggler by this point but only the war minister and his cronies have them and the prince has to make do with swords. After fighting all night they manage to beat back the zombies, who retreat in the daylight as it burns them. Will they make it through the next night? Will the zombies escape from the palace into the capital? What happened to the village and the promise of the soldiers to defend it?

It is an interesting premise to have a zombie movie set in a historical period but it does slow it down somewhat in this case with the historical drama sections mixed in. The weapons they had to use were a bit basic. Surely they would have had access to the Hawcha rocket arrow launcher to take out hordes of zombies. The script writers seems to conveniently forgotten it. I have no idea which years of the Joeson dynasty it takes place in though.

There was no problem with the costumes (I do love those tall hats they wear) and settings as they all seemed to look good especially the palace where some of the heaviest fighting takes place.

The characters seem to be archetypes with the bad guy being stereotypically evil, the good buy being a reluctant hero and the other characters filling the usual supporting roles.

In comparison to Train to Busan the stakes don’t seem to be as high as you don’t get to find out enough about the characters to care about them. The action scenes look cool and there is plenty of gore with the zombies attack but it doesn’t seem to have the same impact.

I would still recommend this movie if you are a fan of zombie movies and historical action movies. For the next movie they should do a zombie movie in space to mix it up a bit.

Shadow (2018)

Director: Yimou Zhang

Starring: Chao Deng, Li Sun, Ryan Zheng, Qianyuan Wang, Jingchun Wang, Jun Hu, Xiaotong Guan, Lei Wu

In a complicated opening we learn that the Commander has been replaced by a “Shadow” raised since he was a child to protect his master from palace intrigues. There was a lot going on in the opening scenes and I kept falling asleep due to being tired. It doesn’t help that the movie is slow paced on purpose to develop the characters and situations more.

The kingdom has had its’ home city taken over and the king advises against trying to retake it by force. The commander ads his two cents and ends up being stripped of his rank by the king and dismissed. Another peace offer involving the king offering the princess for marriage backfires when the prince wants her to be a concubine instead.

The commander and his double train to try and defeat his adversary in the challenge but are getting nowhere. Madame suggests that they use a parasol and move in a more feminine way, que lots of fluid movement and swishing water.

The double goes to the duel, knowing that he is not meant to win it and just act as a distraction for some other fighters to sneak into the city. Amongst the fighters is the princess who is seeking revenge after being slighted by the concubine offer. Will the plot succeed? Who lives and who dies? Will there finally be some action? Well I’ll let you find that out for yourself.

While there is no problem with the staging, costumes and sets the pacing was a bit slow for my liking and I was waiting for it to get to the action.

Great performances all round especially from the princess who gives it to the prince who slighted her.

When it does finally get to the fight scenes they are well staged and artistic. The scene with the fighters surfing down the hill on the steel umbrellas is a bit silly but not played for laughs.

I would recommend this movie if you would like a historical drama with some action thrown in.

Moira Finucane’s Dance Hall

featuring Moira Finucane, Maude Davey, Mama Alto, Clare St Clare, Paul Cordeiro, James Welsby, Berlin Willow Sizer

The Famous Spiegeltent, Luna Park

Thursday, 11th October 2018

I hadn’t been to one of Moira Finucane’s shows since Glory Box a couple of years back and I had been following this one via social media as it toured but did not think I would be able to see it.

Seeing the show pop up at the Speigeltent I said hello to Clare and she asked if I was coming to see it so I couldn’t say no as I had not seen her in so long.

I ended up getting the peanut gallery/artist tickets but was upgraded to a table when I arrived for the show.

The layout of the show is quite a bit different than the last one I saw with dance numbers, songs and some storytelling by Moira Finucane in some sections.

Moira acted as MC and had her own performances during the show.

Paul Cordeiro and James Welsby did some excellent dance numbers including the splits multiple times. My favourite dance of Paul’s was the Bollywood number and James was great doing the Vouging.

I did like having the other cast members holding torches to illuminate whoever was performing,

Maude Davey was quite versatile and even ended up doing a comedy routine dressed as the world.

It was great to see Mama Alto again and her singing was the best as always.

Clare St Clare was my favourite in the show and I got to talk to her after we got off the carousel.

Berlin Willow Sizer was from Mirbo North supposedly and did some great numbers.

After the show finished all the audience got to go on the carousel and have Maude Davey sing while we rode it. For some reason I thought this was only going to be for the deluxe ticket holders. There was a ride on the ghost train next but I did not have the premium ticket.

Special mention must go to the stage monkey who had to climb up a ladder to throw rose petals down and clean things up between acts.

All the acts were very good and I enjoyed having the performers rove around during the performances and sometimes have the acts come in from a direction you did not expect.

A great show and hopefully they all go on to do more shows and a repeat season after they finish.

Project Gutenberg (2018)

Director: Felix Chong

Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Aaron Kwok, Dmitry Mazur, Jason Moehring, Rick Pokrajen-Harmon

Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) is in a Thai prison when he is gotten out by the Hong Kong police who want to question him about the whereabouts of a major counterfeiting kingpin the Painter (Chow Yun-Fat). He is scared that he will be killed, but agrees to tell them if they offer him a deal.

Cut to 1985 when Lee Man is a starving artist living in Vancouver with his girlfriend. Ten years’ later and he still hasn’t sold any of his art. A gallery owner offers him a job copying a work by Albrecht Durer to sell off at high prices.

Unknown to him the Painter takes an interest in his work and turns up to his girlfriend’s exhibition, insulting his work that was snuck in there to get his attention. Lee Man runs out to stop the Painter driving off and they go for a drink. He offers him his card if he wants some work.

When Lee Man finds out the work is to be counterfeiting $100 bills he is dead against it, but the Painter manages to convince him otherwise. He ends up burning his own painting for some strange reason and goes to meet the plane.

On the plane to Hong Kong he meets the usual suspects who are going to be part of the enterprise and each of their roles are explained. There is quite a lot of detail put into the scenes of setting up the counterfeiting operation with the drawing of the forgery, engraving the plates, printing test copies and trying to source the special paper and ink for the notes.

When they go to get the special ink that changes colour is when stuff starts to go south with a big action scene of holding up the armoured truck carrying the drums of ink and several casualties resulting. Lee Man is shocked that the Painter is so violent and refuses to pull the trigger.

Lee Man threatens to quit, but the Painter will not let him so Lee Man says he will come up with a way to get the ink without having to steal it.

There are quite a few scenes of them exchanging the fake currency for real money all over the world. In the mean-time an investigation has been launched in Canada after the armoured car raid and it ends up moving to Hong Kong.

A deal in the Golden Triangle goes bad, leading to a massacre and the whole group going underground. Loyalties are tested and Lee Man still wants no part in killing. When the group eventually ends up returning to Hong Kong things go bad again and this time the police get involved.

This a great crime story with a lot going on and a plot that reminds me of a certain film from the 90s with a large cast and unexpected turns.

It is great to see Chow Yun-Fat in a Hong Kong movie again even though he is not really the main character in the film. The shot of him lighting a cigar off a burning $100 note is not in the film so I guess Hong Kong movies play the same tricks as Hollywood ones.

I did enjoy the action scenes of the armoured truck heist and the raid on the village. We do get to see Chow Yun Fat with twin machine guns in the latter and having Lee Man refuse to shoot in most of the scenes was different.

The scenes of the interrogation were also good and I enjoyed the performance of the female police officer as she took no bullshit from anybody.

I had been looking forward to this movie for a while and it did not disappoint. While it would be good to see on the big screen, I am sure it will be streaming or on DVD/Bluray soon enough.

Melbourne Fringe 2018: Bella Green is Charging for it

Courthouse Hotel, Tuesday 25th September 2018

Opening night show – SOLD OUT

I had seen this show advertised on Twitter and listened to Josh Earl’s “Don’t You Know Who I Am?” podcast that Bella was a guest on and wanted to go see this show even though I was not going to much else at the Fringe festival due to not working.

Meshel Laurie did a couple of shows based around her experiences working as a receptionist at a brothel back in the early 2000’s but there hasn’t really been anything since then and nothing by a sex worker.

The show follows Bella’s life from when she was growing up to her first job in the industry in a peep show, what happened when she was working there that she ended up in a strip club and other normal jobs she had.

After having trouble holding down a ‘normal’ job, she decides to go work at a brothel and we meet the fairy godmother who guides her through the things she should know.

There are some skits based on working in the brothel, but I will let you see those for yourself. During the costume changes Bella asks the audience to hold her work phone and some funny text messages she has received are displayed on screen.

Bella also worked as a mistress in a sex dungeon for a time and the story she tells about that experience is quite something.

There was a line about people reviewing sex workers online and the fake website rootreviews.com (no doubt someone will register that) and also a mention of sex workers twitter accounts.

It was a good show with plenty of funny bits and hopefully it does well in the festival and goes on to feature at the comedy festival and other festivals also.

There were two other people in the show who played various roles but I do not know who they are as yet.

I had not heard of Bella Green before this show, but hopefully she goes on to do more shows and has heaps more shows.

Melbourne Fringe 2018: After Hours Cabaret Club

Lithuanian Club, Saturday, 22 September 2018

Featuring MC Tash York, Bettie Bombshell, Samora Squid, Memphis Mae, Raven Dark Prince Of Burlesque, Luke Hubbard 

I had originally heard about this show from following performers on social who were in it at Edinburgh Fringe and was hoping to see them as part of the show in Melbourne. It was not to be as one of them is still on holidays and the other could not make it this time.

It had been quite a few years since I had gone to see any burlesque apart from Dr Sketchys and I wasn’t taking photos this time I just wanted to enjoy the show.

There was a live band doing the backing music for most of the routines except for two performers who had their own music. It added more energy to the show and was good for the audience to have something to listen to on the way in and exiting the venue.

Tash York was a great MC and got to sing a couple of times. There was even an improvised number based on suggestions from the audience.

Bettie Bombshell did a couple of routines and was well received. Her bra ended up in my lap.

Samora Squid from Penguin Tasmania did some neat tricks with his body including dislocation and making his arms go floppy. He ended up playing the mandolin in an interesting position.

Memphis Mae did an ode to McDonalds burlesque routine and rubbed foodstuffs on her. At one point she threw chicken nuggets into the audience and had some back and forth with one audience member who she wouldn’t give the nugget to. At the end there was a give-away with two lucky audience members getting to tear off a Monopoly ticket from her McDonalds merkin.

I had heard a lot about Raven but had never gotten to see her perform. His routine was unique in that he was already stripped and spent most of it behind the fringe of a giant hat with red tassels hanging down framing his body. It was a great routine and I am sure I will see him again.

Luke Hubbard is a circus performer who has performed with BRIEFS and many other shows. He did some spectacular tumbles and balancing in his act and has performed in very small spaces in the past. A fine act to finish the show with.

It was a great show and well worth seeing if it comes to somewhere near you.

Big Brother (2018)

Director: Ka-Wai Kam

Starring: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Kang Yu, Brahim Achabbakhe, Wai-Ho Auyeung, Tom Caserto, Alfred Cheung, Jai Day, Ye Fan, Semiquaver Iafeta, Tin-Lung Koo

Donnie Yen stars as Henry Chen, a mysterious teacher who turns up to a run-down school and is assigned the worst class. The students ignore him at first, but through his persistence he gradually gets through to them.

When five of his students are expelled for fighting in a restaurant he goes out his way to help them, but one of them does not want to be helped.

The school is also in jeopardy as it is threatened with being closed by the school board due to the poor performance of its students and low enrolments.

After helping the other students, Henry goes to the one who did not come back to school and through a series of events ends up fighting a UFC champion and his crew in the locker room of a stadium. He ends up famous and his students think he is cool.

Everyone is getting ready for the DSE exam and even the former wayward students are studying hard. One student is not going very well and his actions lead to some dire consequences. The big boss of a triad gang also has his eyes on the school for a property development deal and sends over his heavies. Who will win out?

This was a good movie even though the trailer makes it look like there is more action than is actually in the movie. Donnie was great as the lead and the kids stood their ground and each of the main characters had their own story.

I was worried when I saw Wong Jing’s name in the credits at the start of the movie, but he was only one of the producers and none of his usual shenanigans seem to have ended up in the film.

It did remind me of other movies with inspirational teachers but with some different things like the teacher being able to fight the bad guys.

I enjoyed the scene with the go karts where the girl and her father decide to race through the streets to prove a point. Donnie ends up chasing them in a go kart himself. Surely they would not have been allowed to leave the circuit?

There is a sort of bad guy in the movie but his story is explained and he does get a resolution at the end of the story.

An interesting movie if you like stories about inspiring figures and school life.

L Storm (2018)

Director: David Lam

Starring: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Kevin Cheng, Stephy Tang, Toby Chan

When the suspect of a bribery case and the main person of interest in a money laundering case manage to give the ICAC investigators the slip, William Luk (Louis Koo) and JFIU Chief Inspector Lau Po-keung (Julian Cheung)  are at a loss what to do next.

Unknown to them a new boss moves in to take over the money laundering game and does away with his competition. He also sets events in motion that will get the ICAC internal investigation unit L looking into Luk’s affairs so he can’t pursue the case any longer.

When the bribery suspect’s girlfriend is killed he decides to turn star witness and meet up with Luk. At the rendezvous they are attacked and Luk’s partner is hospitalised and the bribery suspect runs away (we never see him again).

The rest of the movie follows Luk being chased by the ICAC and arrested by the JFIU to keep him out of harm’s way. After being detained for 48 hours he decides to go it alone and follows the suspects in the money laundering case to a ship, where he ends up being captured by the gang.

The race is on to capture the gang and the client before they can launder $10 billion and get away with it and to clear Luk’s name. Will they do it in time?

This movie was screening up against Mile 22 and I didn’t know which one to go see, but this one was recommended to me so I thought I would give it a shot. I had not seen the previous movies in the series and it did not seem like I was missing anything.

There is a lot of action and chase scenes with Luk jumping across rooftops and car chases with suspects being tailed and Luk trying to get away from people when he is wanted.

The performances are all fine with no one seeming to overdo it.

There are a few fight scenes with the bad guys fighting Luk on occasion with the fight on the boat being pretty good two against one.

Louis Koo’s hair is indestructible as it even survives getting electrocuted and his suit is always immaculate.

A good police drama with some action mixed in and worth seeing.

MIFF 2018: The Spy Gone North (2018)

Director: Jong-bin Yoon

Starring: Jung-min Hwang, Sung-min Lee, Jin-Woong Cho, Ji-Hoon Ju

Based on the real case of the Black Venus spy from the 1990s we follow said spy as he infiltrates the North Korean inner circle in search of information about the North’s nuclear weapons program.

After a somewhat confusing opening of a North Korean spy being arrested we see the spy telling of how he covered his identity after leaving the army by drinking and gambling and ruining his credit rating. His new identity is as a businessman working in Beijing looking for North Korean products to sell. He is warned by his superior that if he is captured or exposed that the government will deny all knowledge.

Due to it being based on real life and less James Bond style theatrics there is a lot of dialog and meetings in this movie. There are the classic spy movie tropes of bugs and tails but the main character knows enough to act accordingly when he goes to North Korea and ends up drugged and interrogated when they take a blood sample.

Great performances all round including from the actor playing Kim Jong Il. His little dog got a lot of laughs from the audience for some reason.

The scenery for North Korea was good but the movie was shot in Taiwan for obvious reasons.

There are political machinations involved when the secret service agency tries to change the election outcome by asking for the North’s help, something which the spy does not agree to and decides to act on his own initiative to change things.

If you like more thoughtful spy dramas and less action then I would recommend this movie.

MIFF 2018: Milan Caliber 9 (1972)

Director: Fernando Di Leo           

Starring: Gastone Moschin, Barbara Bouchet, Mario Adorf, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli, Ivo Garrani, Philippe Leroy, Lionel Stander

When Ugo (Gastone Moschin) is released from jail the local mob are after him as they think he ripped off $300,000 from them, which he denies. Nobody believes him, not his friend or his ex-lover and he has a bad time of it at first with Rocco and his heavies roughing him up.

He goes to see his friend for help and they end and up in a fight with Rocco. As it turns out the head of the mob the Mikado wants Ugo to work for him. The gang deals in moving large amounts of currency for rich clients and one such job ends in a bomb going off in the railway station.

Ugo’s loyalty is tested when the gang wants him to rub out his friend, leading to an endgame with his friend set on dealing with the mob once and for all.

This movie is 70s to the max with a great soundtrack, excellent characters and costumes and some over the top sets like the apartment of the dancer.

For some reason I am thirsty for J&B whisky as they do about five different product placements for it as it is Ugo’s preferred drink.

The scene with the dancer (Ugo’s girlfriend) is great with a lot of strange angles you would not think they would use for such a scene.

Rocco is pretty stylish with his pencil thin moustache, curly hair and suits. He is a bit dumb but does respect Ugo at least.

In the police station one of the police makes a speech about socialism but it was hard to make out as half the words were not subtitled. “Americano” kept being said in the dialog but was not subtitled.

After the film there was a talk by Malcolm Angelucci from the University of Melbourne who said the bombing was based on a real terrorist attack around the same era and Milan was the centre of the student protests of the late 1960s.

This film is available online or there is a new release by Arrow Films which I would recommend as it has a load of special features.