REVIEW: 47 RONIN

CAST

Keanu Reeves (The Matrix)
Hiroyuki Sanada (Life)
Tadanobu Asano (Battleship)
Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim)
Ko Shibasaki (Shaolin Girl)
Min Tanaka (Gaiji Keisatsu)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Gedde Watanabe (Gremlins 2)
Togo Igawa (Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist)

In late medieval Japan, Kai is a half-Japanese, half-English outcast who lives in the Akō Domain, which is ruled by the benevolent Lord Asano Naganori. When Kai was young, Asano adopted him as a foundling. Asano’s daughter Mika and Kai eventually fall in love, despite Kai being scorned by her father’s samurai due to his mixed ancestry.Before a planned visit from Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Asano is visited by the Shogun’s master of ceremonies, Lord Kira, who wants to take Akō for himself. Kira enlists the help of a shapeshifting Kitsune named Witch who sends a Kirin to kill Asano in the forest of Ako. Asano’s samurai struggle in their battle with the monster so Kai joins in riding an abandoned horse. As the monster charges him, Kai recovers a lost sword that he uses to slay it. Shortly thereafter he spots the Witch disguised in her white fox form with different coloured eyes. Later during the Shogun’s visit, Kai sees that one of the Shogun’s concubines has the same multi-colored eyes. He tries to warn Asano’s principal counselor and samurai, Oishi, that she is the Witch.Later, Kira arranges a duel for the entertainment of the Shogun: Kira’s best warrior, the giant Golem Samurai, will battle a warrior of Asano’s choosing. However, before the duel begins, the Witch uses her magic to incapacitate Asano’s combatant. Kai secretly dons his armor and fights in his stead, but his disguise is revealed and the Shogun orders him severely beaten as punishment. Later that night, Witch uses her magic to make Asano believe that Kira is raping Mika, causing him to attack an unarmed Kira in his delirium. Asano is sentenced to death for attacking a Shogunate official, though the Shogun allows him to die with honor through seppuku. The Shogun then gives Kira both the Akō domain and Mika, although he grants Mika one year to mourn the death of her father before marrying Kira. The Shogun also brands Oishi and his men ronin and forbids them from seeking vengeance for Asano’s death. To ensure that the ronin do not interfere with his takeover plans, Kira imprisons Oishi in an outdoor pit to break his spirit.Nearly a year later, Oishi is released by Kira’s men. He now knows that Kira is guilty of treachery for using Witch’s sorcery to cause Asano’s downfall. Oishi reunites with his family and asks his son Chikara to aid him in reuniting the scattered ronin. They learn that Kai has been sold into slavery and Oishi rescues him from the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. Kai leads them to the Tengu Forest, a mystical place he escaped from as a child, so that they can find swords for themselves. Kai instructs Oishi to never draw his sword while in the Tengu temple and continues alone to another room to face the Tengu Master, who once trained Kai in their fighting ways. While Kai confronts the Tengu Master in a battle of wills, Oishi watches an illusion of his men being slaughtered by the Tengu, during which he fights the urge to draw his own sword. With Kai and Oishi both successful in their Tengu challenges, the ronin are given Tengu swords.Armed with their new weapons, the ronin plan to attack Kira on his pilgrimage to a shrine where he seeks blessings for his wedding to Mika. However, Kira’s procession is a trap and the ronin are ambushed by Kira’s forces, led by Witch and her companion Samurai. Several of the ronin are killed, and Witch, thinking they are all dead, takes Oishi’s sword and presents it to Kira as a trophy. Witch later taunts Mika with their deaths and attempts to manipulate her into committing suicide from despair.Oishi and Kai (having actually survived the attack) rally the surviving ronin. Oishi, Kai, and half of the ronin infiltrate Kira’s castle by disguising themselves as a band of traveling wedding performers loyal to the memory of Lord Asano. With Kira’s men distracted during the performance, the remaining ronin scale the castle walls, and the reunited groups start to battle with Kira’s men. While Oishi fights Kira, Kai and Mika are attacked by the Witch, who shape-shifts into a dragon. Kai uses his sword and draws on the mystical powers of the Tengu to finally kill her. After gutting him, Oishi emerges with Kira’s severed head and Kira’s men surrender.After winning the battle, the ronin (including Kai) surrender themselves to Shogunate authority and are sentenced to death as they explicitly violated the Shogun’s prohibition on avenging Asano. However, the Shogun finds that they followed the principles of Bushido in their actions and, therefore, restores their honor as samurai. Thus, instead of execution, the ronin are allowed to perform seppuku. They are also given the honor of burial with their master, Lord Asano. The Shogun gives Akō back to Mika, and at the seppuku ceremony, he pardons Oishi’s son Chikara so that he may serve Akō and preserve Oishi’s bloodline for the country. A closing caption informs the audience of the tradition of paying respect at the graves of the 47 Ronin which continues every year on December 14.47 Ronins an entertaining fantasy based on the classic Japanese story. Despite the Western behaviors and feelings of the ronin and Mika, the movie is not bad as indicated in many reviews. Actually I have had a nice surprise.

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REVIEW: PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

CAST
Mark Wahlberg (The Perfect Storm)
Helena Bonham Carter (Dark Shadows)
Tim Roth (Lie To Me)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Scorpion King)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Estella Warren (I Accuse)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Elektra)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2)
Kris Kristofferson (Blade)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes Original)
Evan Parke (Alias)
Glenn Shadix (Hercules: TLJ)
Linda Harrison (60s Batman)
Melody Perkins (Power Rangers In Space)
Martin Klebba (Project X)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Chuck)
In 2029, aboard the United States Air Force space station Oberon, Leo Davidson works closely with primates who are trained for space missions. His favorite simian co-worker is a chimpanzee named Pericles. With a deadly electromagnetic storm approaching the station, a small space pod piloted by Pericles is used to probe the storm. Pericles’s pod heads into the storm and disappears. Against his commanding officer’s orders, Leo takes a second pod and goes in pursuit of Pericles. Entering the storm, Leo loses contact with the Oberon and crashes on a planet called Ashlar in the year 5021. He discovers that the world is ruled by humanoid apes who can speak human language and treat human beings as slaves.
Leo comes across a female chimpanzee named Ari, who protests the awful treatment humans receive. Ari decides to buy Leo and a female slave named Daena to have them work as servants in the house of her father, Senator Sandar. Leo escapes his cage and frees other humans. Ari sees them, but Leo convinces her to join a human rebellion against the apes. General Thade and Colonel Attar march ape warriors in pursuit of the humans. Leo discovers Calima (the temple of “Semos”), a forbidden, but holy, site for the apes.
Calima turns out to be the remains of the Oberon, Leo’s space station, which has crashed on the planet’s surface and looks ancient (the name Calima coming from the sign “CAution LIve aniMAls”, the relevant letters being the only ones not covered in dust). According to the computer logs, the station has been there for thousands of years. Leo deduces that when he entered the vortex he was pushed forward in time, while the Oberon, searching after him, was not, crashing on the planet long before he did.
The Oberon‍ ’s log reveals that the apes on board, led by Semos, organized a mutiny and took control of the vessel after it crashed. The human and ape survivors of the struggle left the ship and their descendants are the people Leo has encountered since landing. In the present, a battle ensues between the humans and the apes. A familiar vehicle descends from the sky and is identified immediately by Leo as the pod piloted by Pericles, the chimpanzee astronaut. Pericles was pushed forward in time as Leo was, and had just now found his way to the planet. When Pericles lands, the apes interpret his landing as the return arrival of Semos, the first ape, who is their god. They bow, and hostilities between humans and apes disappear.
Pericles then runs into the Oberon and Leo runs after him, followed by General Thade. Inside, Thade and Leo fight, with Pericles trying to help Leo, only to be thrown hard against a wall. Thade gets hold of Leo’s gun, but does not understand how to use it at first. Seeing that Thade is in the pilot’s deck, Leo closes the automatic door of the entrance, trapping Thade as he shoots the gun, the bullets ricocheting off the door harmlessly. Thade thrashes around to escape, but after all attempts to do so fail, he finally gives up. Leo then decides that it is time for him to leave the Planet of the Apes, so he gives Pericles to Ari, with her promising to look after him, also saying farewell to Daena. Leo climbs aboard Pericles’s undamaged pod and uses it to travel back in time through the same electromagnetic storm. Leo ends up crashing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Earth. He looks up at the Memorial, and sees it is now a monument in honor of General Thade. A swarm of police officers, firefighters, and news reporters descend on Leo, but on closer inspection, they are all apes.
This is a remake which managed to outdo all the production values of the previous ‘Apes’ films, but ended up with a film which feels like it was made for a straight-to-TV. We all make mistakes, and this one was was Tim Burton’s. There was no reason to remake what was (and is) a classic film.

REVIEW: TOP OF THE WORLD

 

CAST

Peter Weller (Robocop)
Dennis Hopper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2)
Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World)
David Alan Grier (Jumanji)
Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Peter Coyote (Sphere)
Martin Kove (The Karate Kid)
Ed Lauter (The Artist)

top-of-the-world_01In Las Vegas for a quicky divorce, a just-paroled ex-cop and his wife wander into the Top of the World Casino, run by the shady Charles Atlas. They win big, right as the casino is being robbed. The police believe their big win was a staged diversion, and the two of them become suspects. Over the course of the evening and next morning, the two attempt to escape to surrounded casino, and to prove their innocence, as well as to save their marriage.3a06eb652967c723cced5d8f718Not a terrible movie, but it’s kind of lacking. I would only recommend you watch it if nothing else better is playing on TV.

REVIEW: TWINS

 

CAST

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Hercules In New York)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
Kelly Preston (Jerry Maguire)
Chloe Webb (Sid and Nancy)
Bonnie Bartlett (Firefly)
Trey Wilson (Raising Arizona)
Marshall Bell (Starship Troopers)
David Carusco (CSI: Miami)
Maury Chaykin (Entrapment)
Tony Jay (Lois & Clark)
Tom McCleister (Million Dollar Baby)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Sven-Ole Thorsen (Mallrats)
Heather Graham (The Hangover)

Julius Benedict and Vincent Benedict are fraternal twins, the result of a secret experiment carried out at a genetics laboratory to combine the DNA of six fathers to produce the perfect child. To the surprise of the scientists, the embryo split and twins were born. The mother, Mary Ann Benedict, was told that Julius died at birth, and not told about Vincent at all. Vincent was placed in an orphanage run by nuns in Los Angeles and believes his mother abandoned him. With no one but himself to rely on, Vincent escaped from the orphanage and became an indebted, small-time crook. Julius was raised on a South Pacific island by Professor Werner, where he engages in intense physical training and extensive study. Each twin is unaware of the other’s existence.On Julius’s 35th birthday, Julius discovers he has a twin brother. With Professor Werner’s blessing, Julius proceeds to the United States to find his brother. Julius discovers that Vincent lives in L.A. and eventually tracks him down in jail for unpaid parking tickets.Julius bails Vincent out, but Vincent does not believe his story and abandons him in a car park. Julius pursues Vincent to his workplace and finds him being beaten up by Morris Klane, a loan shark enforcer. Julius subdues Morris, earning Vincent’s trust and respect. He later meets Vincent’s girlfriend Linda Mason and enters a romantic relationship with her sister Marnie. Over dinner, Vincent shows Julius a document he stole from the orphanage that shows their mother is actually still alive, but believing that she abandoned him at birth, Vincent shows no interest in finding her. Julius tracks one of their six fathers to the address on the document. The father directs Julius to Mitchell Traven in New Mexico, the other professor who headed the experimentVincent steals a late-model Cadillac Sedan de Ville for his chop shop contact and finds a prototype fuel injector in the trunk that was to be delivered to an industrialist, Beetroot McKinley, in Houston, for five million dollars. Vincent decides to pose as the delivery man and deliver the fuel injector himself so he can collect the money and pay off his debts. He reluctantly allows Julius, Linda and Marnie to accompany him to New Mexico to find professor Traven. Mr. Webster, the real delivery man, begins pursuing Vincent. In New Mexico, Traven reveals the truth to the twins and directs them to Santa Fe, where their mother lives in an art colony. On the way to Santa Fe, the twins are accosted by the Klane brothers, but they fight them off for the last time. At the art colony in Santa Fe, a painter informs Julius and Vincent that their mother has died. They leave, unaware that the painter is in fact their mother, Mary Ann, who didn’t believe their story.Vincent bitterly heads to Houston alone to deliver the prototype to McKinley, leaving Julius and the girls behind in New Mexico for their safety. Julius chases after Vincent, and finds him seconds after the exchange with McKinley. Webster appears and kills McKinley, demanding the money from Vincent. Julius intercepts Webster in order for Vincent to escape, but Vincent returns and agrees to give Webster the money to save Julius. Webster decides to kill them anyway for seeing his face, but Vincent kills him by unloading a heavy chain onto his head and burying him. Julius and Vincent return both the prototype and $4 million (Vincent skimming $1 million), and use that along with the reward to start a consulting firm. Their publicity reaches the art colony and Mary Ann learns that her sons are alive. She violently confronts Traven for concealing the truth and tracks Julius and Vincent down to their workplace. Sometime later, Julius and Vincent marry the Mason sisters. Both marriages produce twin children, and the couples are last seen meeting their mother and Professor Werner on an outing.I’m a big Arnold fan so I enjoy most of his films and this is easily the best comedy he’s ever done. The movie is just hilarious and fun to watch Arnold and Devito make a good team.

 

REVIEW: BRIDGE OF DRAGONS

 

CAST

Dolph Lundgren (Masters of The Universe)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Valerie Chow (Futuresport)
Gary Hudson  (Mutant X)
John Bennett (Eye of The Needle)
Scott L. Schwartz (Fire Down Below)

The tough and cold mercenary Warchild, is working for the man who took care of his war training and upbringing, the greedy General Ruechang. Ruechang is planning to take over the country by marrying Princess Halo. But Halo discovers that Ruechang killed her father to gain more power than he had working for the King, so she decides to run away. Warchild is the one who has to bring her back to Ruechang, but the one thing no one counted on happens…Warchild and Halo fall in love, and together they take on the forces of Ruechang.Tagawa returns as yet another baddie, facing off against Lundgren once again (he was also the antagonist of Showdown in Little Tokyo, 1991). You gotta love his “666” logo on his buildings and vehicles. But this time he, and all the other characters, are in a more tongue-in-cheek world, with really wacky sound effects and some silly humor. Bridge of Dragons is classic late-90’s Lundgren with a few unorthodox twists.

REVIEW: SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO

CAST

Dolph Lundgren (Universal Soldier)
Brandon Lee (The Crow)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Tia Carrere (Relic Hunter)
Toshirô Obata (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Los Angeles cop Chris Kenner (Dolph Lundgren) is an American who was raised in Japan. He is given a new partner, Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee), an American of partial Japanese descent. Kenner does not appreciate American culture, while Johnny does not much like Japanese culture. One thing they both enjoy are the martial arts, of which they are both experts. The two are assigned to L.A.’s Little Tokyo, where they break up some criminal activity in a Japanese restaurant, and an arrest is made. While Kenner and Johnny are questioning the suspect, Kenner loses his temper and rips the suspect’s shirt, and the tattoos that Kenner sees on the suspect remind Kenner of when he was 9 years old, a time when he witnessed his parents being killed by a member of the Yakuza. The tattoos are the trademark of the Iron Claw Yakuza clan. However, before Kenner or Murata can get any information out of the suspect, he kills himself in the interrogation room by breaking his own neckOn the other side of town, the leader of the Iron Claw, Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), kills the owner of a popular downtown nightclub called the Bonsai Club by crushing the owner, Tanaka (Philip Tan), in a car compactor. To celebrate “gaining” ownership of the Bonsai Club, Yoshida throws a party at his house with all of the club staff. One of the girls at the party, named Angel (Renee Griffin), is revealed to have warned Tanaka about Yoshida behind his back, and this infuriates Yoshida. Yoshida questions Angel about her loyalty, and she attempts to appease Yoshida by offering her body to him. Yoshida then drugs Angel and strips off her clothes, and then fondles her from behind before beheading her.When the coroner runs an analysis on Angel’s body, it is revealed that she was forced into ingesting a large amount of methamphetamines in her system which would have led to her death anyway. This discovery of drugs, together with the suspect having Yakuza tattoos, cause Kenner and Johnny to go to the Bonsai Club in search of information. There they meet lounge singer Minako Okeya (Tia Carrere), who was a good friend of Angel’s. Before they can get any useful information out of her, they are ambushed and taken to see the nightclub’s owner and Kenner recognizes Yoshida as the man who killed his parents. Yoshida is now a drug manufacturer using a local brewery as his distribution center. He uses smaller gangs such as the Hells Angels, Crips and Sureños to peddle the drugs for him, in return for a percentage of the profit.Kenner and Johnny escape from the nightclub. Later that night, Yoshida rapes and kidnaps Minako and vows to kill Kenner. Kenner and Johnny set out for Yoshida’s heavily guarded home, where they rescue Minako. His pride wounded, Yoshida sends his men out to get Minako back. He has Kenner and Johnny captured and tortured, but Kenner and Johnny manage to escape, leading to a protracted battle in which Kenner and Johnny emerge victorious.This film is funny, action packed and has a decent story, but we all know that the story is not the movies strong point, the action sequences are! They are well choreographed and Dolph and Brandon make for a very humorous team. Showdown in little Tokyo is pretty damn good and a lot of fun. I would strongly recommend it to any action movie fan.

REVIEW: THE PHANTOM

CAST

Billy Zane (The Scorpion King 3)
Treat Williams (Hair)
Kristy Swanson (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Catherine Zeta-Jones (Entrapment)
James Remar (Gotham)
Patrick McGoohan (Braveheart)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Bill Smitrovich (Air Force One)
Jon Tenney (Legion)

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In the early 16th century, a young boy helplessly witnesses his father’s death at the hands of Kabai Sengh, the ruthless leader of the Sengh brotherhood who attacked their ship. The boy jumps overboard and is washed ashore on an island called Bengalla where he is found by tribesmen who take him to their village. There he is given the Skull Ring and swears to devote his life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty and injustice. In adulthood, he adopts the identity of “The Phantom”, a masked avenger. The role of The Phantom is passed on from father to son through centuries, leading people to believe in a single, immortal figure and accordingly nickname him “The Ghost Who Walks” and “The Man Who Never Dies”.the-phantom13

In 1938, Kit Walker (Billy Zane), the 21st Phantom, finds a man named Quill (James Remar) leading a mercenary group in the jungle. The group is searching for one of the Skulls of Touganda, which grants its owner a tremendous destructive power. The Phantom saves the native boy they had kidnapped to be their guide and captures Quill’s men, leaving them to be picked up by the jungle patrol while their leader escapes. Quill—revealed as a member of the Sengh Brotherhood, and the man who killed Kit’s father (Patrick McGoohan)— flees with the Skull and returns to the United States.the_phantom_sala-catehrine-zeta-jones

In New York City, Kit’s ex-girlfriend from college, Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson), is a frequent traveler whose uncle, Dave Palmer (Bill Smitrovich), is the famous owner of the “World Tribune” newspaper. The paper has been investigating power-hungry business man Xander Drax (Treat Williams), a shady character with a reputation for having dealings with criminals. Mr. Palmer has managed to uncover that Drax is connected to a mysterious spider web symbol, which he traces back to the Bengalla Jungle. He sends Diana to investigate, and en route, her airplane is hijacked by female air pirates employed by Drax and led by the femme fatale Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Diana is kidnapped and taken to their base on the waterfront in Bengalla. Having been informed of Diana’s kidnapping by the Jungle Patrol’s captain Phillip Horton (Robert Coleby), the Phantom rescues Diana and escapes from Quill and his men to his headquarters, the Skull Cave (with the help of his white horse Hero, his pet wolf Devil, and his jungle friends the Rope People). There, Diana meets with Horton, where she is informed by the Phantom and Horton that she is involved with the Sengh Brotherhood. The Phantom tells Horton to use the Jungle Patrol to take care of Diana and return her to New York while he goes after the Brotherhood.thephantom199618_zpsd14f3d36

Back in New York, Kit, now dressed as his civilian self, meets with Mr. Palmer at the Tribune building and once again meets with Diana, who has mixed feelings about him since his sudden disappearance several years before. Diana’s would-be suitor Jimmy Wells (Jon Tenney) mentions he had seen one of the skulls in the Museum of Natural History. Kit and Diana hurry there and are captured by Drax and his men, who steal the second Skull from Kit and unite it with the first, revealing the location of the third Skull on an uncharted island known as the Devil’s Vortex on the Yellow Sea. Kit sees his father’s old skull belt buckled around Quill’s waist and realizes that he is his father’s killer. He manages to escape from him and his henchmen and, as the Phantom, evades the police outside the museum (Drax is allied with New York’s corrupt police commissioner, who Mr. Palmer had informed of Diana’s trip). Meanwhile, Sala flies Drax, Quill and Diana (Drax’s “Phantom insurance” after Sala reveals that Diane is his girlfriend) to the Devil’s Vortex, not knowing that the Phantom has managed to hitch a ride on one of the plane’s landing pontoons.thephantomOn the island, Drax meets with the pirate Kabai Sengh (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a descendant of the Brotherhood’s original leader, who possesses the third Skull. Sengh warns Drax of the existence of a “Fourth Skull”, which controls the power of the other three. The Phantom appears and battles both men, with Kabai Sengh killed by his own pool of sharks, as Diana and Sala cooperate to defeat the other villains. Drax unites the three Skulls and turns them against the Phantom, inadvertently killing Quill in the process. The Phantom uses the Fourth Skull—his own ring—to overcome the others and destroy both them and Drax in a powerful explosion. As the island is destroyed, the Phantom narrowly escapes with Diana and Sala. In Bengalla once again, Diana reveals to the Phantom she has figured out his secret and his double-identity. Kit removes his mask, telling her that he is only allowed to reveal all of his secrets to one person, the woman he intends to marry, but she leaves again for New York. Kit’s father laments his son’s failure to pursue Diana, but states that she will return to the Phantom’s jungle, and to Kit, one day.thephantom199622_zps86cd1744

This movie captures the true spirit of the original Phantom comics. Everything is done right. The time period, the fighting styles, the characterisations, and the whole look of the film are perfect. If you have ever read a Phantom comic and enjoyed it, then see this movie and you’ll not be disappointed.