lördag 31 december 2011

Phee Ta Boh (ผีตาโบ๋, 1981)

Phee Ta Boh has one of the best and coolest posters ever made in Thailand, with artwork you will remember directly and never forget. It's not that special, but the sight of a man stretching forward his hand holding his own eyes is a good idea, and for once it's also something that actually happens in the movie itself. I have this movie on VCD, and decided to finally - the last hours of 2011, finally give it a spin. I heard both good and bad things about, and the good news is that it's actually quite decent - but could have been much better without some parts of the story. Let me tell you...

Saard Piampongsarn plays a mad scientist working in his lab in the jungle. He has a staff of heroine addicts who kidnaps people, mostly women, who he kills and take the eyes from. Why? Because he once upon a time he married a beautiful woman and became the happiest couple in the world (which we knows because the scenes with them are in front of sunsets, on the beach and on a wedding). Something happens - illness, accident - and she goes blind. Now his whole life evolves around making the first eye-transplantation. One day he sees a handsome man (Porjed Kaenpetch) who have PERFECT eyes. Saard kidnaps him, kills him and finally succeeds in making his wife see again. But his stupid staff wants to have some fun and asks their friend the black magician to do some magic - and by mistake the wake up Porjed again and now he's back for vengeance - and his beautiful eyes!

This is Eyes Without a Face/The Awful Dr Orloff in Thailand, obviously. But it's about eyes instead of skin and other body parts, but with a supernatural twist. Now, everything is actually quite good until the second hour starts. Before that, a quite serious horror-drama with some blood and tension and now the zombie/ghost is outside the lab, trying to get in and their defending themselves with magic etc, etc. Then something goes terrible wrong. Someone, maybe the producer, decides that it's enough with this silly horror and introduces us to forty-five minutes of very broad humour and slapstick. Every scene is about how some funny guest actor (for example, Lor Tok and the weird-looking Songthong) meets the ghost, not realizing he's a ghost and comedy occurs. This happens four-five times, and first of all: without subtitles it's not funny at all, and second: it's kinda destroys the nice atmosphere that the movie started with.

Thank heavens the last fifteen minutes goes back to the real revenge of the ghost and we're treated to a lot of fun and sometimes bloody scenes of ghost-action. Like in the miserable Jing Jork Phee Sing (1985, starring Sorapong Chatree) the zombie has the gift of stretching his arms several meters and this guy also can throw his eyes, when I finally gets them again, and make them hunt down people! Cool.

Without that comedy in the last hour this would have been a blast. Now it's just a good movie. The VCD is badly cropped, but the picture quality itself is better than usual. 

onsdag 28 december 2011

Gunman (มือปืน, 1983)

Thailand is so much more than martial arts, silly spy-movies, countryside-dramas and musicals. The man who started a new direction of Thai cinema is Chatrichalerm Yukol (a prince by the way). Focusing on gritty reality rather than fantasies he turned the Thai culture up-side-down. Sometimes with pure propaganda, but sometime with a gripping and intelligent crime-drama as Gunman (aka Mue Puen) from 1983. Starring is his favorite actor, Sorapong Chatree, and I think both of them are doing brilliant stuff in this movie.

Gunman begins with a long single take. Someone is sitting at the back of a motorbike, stops, walks into a restaurant, shots an man point blank and walks out again. What follows is a slightly comedic montage over witnesses trying to describe the man. Everyone has a different opinion about his look, but one thing is fore sure: he has a limp.

Ron Rittichai is Inspector Thanu Adharn, an attention seeking police officer who rather kills than ask questions. His life is a mess though, but he tries to play it cool. In another part of Bangkok is Sergeant Sommai Moungthup (Chatree) working as a hairdresser. His son is getting sicker, maybe from epilepsy and now we're starting to realise that behind this kind face is a killer, a gunman. Because the only thing Sommai can do is to kill. He does it without any hesitation.

His dream is to open a small shop outside of Bangkok, far away from the streets and the crime, and start a new life with his son. But the organization that gives him job encourages him to do more jobs, and soon the police is getting very close. Inspector Adharn isn't interested in pursuing Sommai, because Sommai saved his life in Laos once, but his colleagues, wife and press is forcing him to be more and more involved...

The storyline is classic, maybe basic, a gunman wanting to stop and get a new life. But this is so much better than I expected. The style is gritty and raw, but with beautiful cinematography and sharp editing. The Thai dvd is in 2.35:1 and the visuals, the lights and production reminds me of those cool New York-based thrillers that came from the US during the seventies. There's nothing really nice in this movie. Everyone is assholes, except Sommai's sick son. I mean, Sommai might be nice but he's still a cold blooded killer. It's a shit-world and director Chatrichalerm Yukol is eager to show us that. This is not an action movie, but it's still filled with very brutal violence - mostly gun violence - and very crude dialogue.

Yukol gives us the whorehouses, the sleazy bars, the back streets, the illness and disturbed relationships. Far from the typical happy Thai drama. This is raw film making and I'm very impressed. The acting is always a bit uneven and over-the-top in Thai movies, but this flick gives us some excellent performances. Sorapong Chatree is making the performance of his career, and is eerily convincing.

The Thai dvd has English subtitles, has the correct aspect ratio and is a good choice (and probably) to see this movie. The print is a bit beaten up, and it's taken from a video master of some kind - but it's still very acceptable. Buy it from eThaiCD.com for example.

lördag 24 december 2011

Brutal River (โคตรเพชฒฆาต, 2005)

I think Anat Yuangngern first movie, the over-the-top Curse of the Sun was a very entertaining and ultra-violent action/horror-movie with zombie-gangsters and lots of cheesy and gory b-action. He tried to do something else with his next movie, Brutal River, and I can't say I'm impressed. Visually it's a nice movie, with classy cinematography and some okey actors, but Anat really fucked up the direction and editing. This true story (so they say anyway) about a killer-croc eating villagers could have been a lot of fun, but something went wrong. I think Anat just wanted to be serious after his last movie, and that was a big mistake.

The script, a very thin script I should say, follows the unlucky bastards that lives in small village in the Chumporn province. One day a crocodile (or alligator?) show up and starts to chew the actors and scenery. One by one some idiot is killed by the monster, fishermen, flirting boyfriends, the girlfriend of the new police, some old chef, two holy men and some other fools. Until they send for the military, who kills it. That's it, nothing more. There's no fun characters, not much gore, not much monster and too much romantic scenes in slow-motion. The bodycount is actually quite high, but everything is so lifeless.

So what went wrong? It's a god damn thai-movie with a killer-crocodile? Well, like I wrote above, Anat Yuangngern tries to be grown up and make something that will send him into the thai movie history. He failed so big! The good looking cinematography don't help at all, and the music is just annoying. Most of the croc-action is CG, which I don't mind at all and a few shots here and there are animatronics... but where's the gore? Where's the excitement? Not in this movie anyway.

But the worst thing, the thing that makes this movie really, really, really annoying is... the use of fade to black. I have NEVER seen a movie that uses fade to black so many times than this movie. It uses fade from black a couple of times to, but those fade to black... God, you just have to see it to believe it. There's so much fade to black that I thought I was going blind at least a couple of times during the movie!

No, this wasn't the brilliant silly killer croc-movie I wanted it to be, and it's nothing worse than a boring creature feature.

onsdag 21 december 2011

Article in Bioscope Magazine, the December issue!

You who live in Thailand and - most important- know the Thai language, can read an article about mew in the December issue of Bioscope Magazine. It's a great honor to be featured in such a renowned magazine! Here's scans that director and writer Thunska Pansittivorakul did for me, but I kept the quality so low so you're forced to support the magazine to be able to read it ;)

Tsunami 2022 (13-04-2022 สึนามิ วันโลกสังหาร, 2009)

I usually have no problem with patrotic movies from Thailand. They are alway patriotic in a humble way, and always try to learn the audience that no one is perfect and that every human being is worth something. So is not the case with Tsunami 2022, a slightly (not even that really) futuristic movie about the threat of a huge tsunami threatening Bangkok in the year 2022.

We follow a bunch of stereotypes: a young man who are afraid of the water after his parents died in the tsunami 2004, an old scientist that lost his son in that tsunami, the heroic and stoic prime minister, the evil politician that wants to take his place, the son of the evil politician who's even more evil and are rebuilding a small island to a giant casino and bla bla bla. And yes, there is a lot of female characters to, but they are so badly written that it's hard to tell one from another. Of course the heroes believes that a giant tsunami will hit Thailand, but the evil ones dosen't believe them. Until it happens in the last half hour.

As a disaster movie it's nothing new, and the concept with a futuristic Bangkok falls flat. The only thing showing it's a futuristic city is an enormous golden Buddah-statue standing in the water outside the city, which in the end results in of the silliest scenes in the movie. But I can stand stereotypes, if they are written with some kinda love and maybe self-distance. Here there's just stereotypes. The prime minister is so heroic and GOOD that it's absurd. There's absolutely nothing wrong with him, and in the end he alone saves 20-30 kids from a sinking schoolbus! And when he floats away, he get caught in the golden Buddhas hand and together they float up to the surface, the Buddha on two legs and with the sunshine coming through the clouds! Yeah, there's no doubt that he's Buddha reborn. On the other side we have the EVIL EVIL EVIL capitalistic politician who also happens to be GAY with a taste for toyboys, and there's no doubt here that he's gay is a part of his evilness. To take the other characters serious is also hard, because one of them, a hunky native fisherman, have a tribal tatoo that's being washed away everytime he get's near water and the old scientist has the biggest and most fakest beard I've seen for many years. Small things, but because the movie is so serious this just dosen't fit in.

But the main thing is the disaster, yeah? It's quite a big disaster. Bangkok get's drowned by the huge tsunami, trains and cars are flying everywhere, buildings break and people get flushed away - the boring thing is that they obviously didn't have so much money (or the lack of technology) to make it realistic. I have nothing against computer animation, I love it, but here it looks very crappy. There's a few shots during the big finale that looks fine and gives some credibility to the disaster, but the rest is mediocre. This is a movie only for disaster-freaks like myself.

It's been a Tidal Wave-time for asian disaster movies. First we had 252: Signal of Life from Japan in 2008, Haenudae from South Korea and Super Typhoon from China. All big, fat disaster flicks with a lot of hype and money behind them. I will review them all, but for now Tsunami 2022 was the worst. So I hope I have three better movies ahead of me. Wish me luck.

måndag 19 december 2011

Tarm Kah 20,000 Miles (ตามฆ่า 20,000 ไมล์, 1977)

A few years after the big blaxploitation wave the Thai's thought it was time to do their own funky, "black", flick. The result became Tarm Kah 20,000 Miles, starring (not surprising) Sorapong Chatree and Krung Srivilai as two groovy cops (well, at least one of them is an FBI agent I think) with funky clothes and in one case (Sorapong's) a fine, juicy, awesome afro-wig! As usual with me I've been watching a movie on VCD and there was no subtitles. I have no idea really what the movie was about, but here's what I could decipher:

Krung travels to the United States where he hooks up with FBI agent Sorapong. Theyr'e having a ball, beating bad guys and also investigating a brutal murder. But someone don't want them to look to close and Sorapong's family is killed! Furious of revenge he and Krung takes on the baddies and kills as many as possible, but the syndicate behind it all is still after them. Back in Thailand they dig even deeper and find that a crime organization is doing something fishy! More death and mayhem etc etc.

So I have no idea why everything is happening. Drugs? Gold? Military secrets? No idea, sorry, but the crime syndicate really want to stop our heroes and tries everything to make them burn in hell. But come on, it's Sorapong - and Sorapong always wins!

Even if you don't understand the story, Tarm Kah 20,000 Miles is a damn fine action film. It looks like parts of it was shot in the US (but the quality on the VCD was so bad so it could have been shot in Norway and I wouldn't notice it!), including a good car chase in good ol' American style. There's also a shoot-out at a seedy bar and it's both bloody and spectacular I think it is not less than four times as someone jumps through a window to surprise the bad guys during the whole movie! The action is the selling point of this... thaisploitation and it also delivers in a competent low-budget way. It's a violent movie and it has it's fair share of squibs and blood, which is a nice surprise. Just the way a real gritty 70's crime movie should be.

Sorapong has always been one of my favourite actors and he's one of the few that one day can shoot a nonsense-movie and the other day do some heavy, impressive acting in a drama. Here he wanders around in a silly wig, but somehow keeps up appearances and never looses his cool style. Krung, a very fine actor, has an equally big part - but no wig.

The VCD from Lepso is another thing: just avoid it. I think there's better release out there somewhere. This looks like a third generation VHS dupe ripped from television (which it is, fragments of TV-commercials can be seen here and there) and I'm also 100 % sure it's shortened to fit some TV-slot. But this didn't stop it from being very entertaining and it's well worth watching for those that like this kind of Thai action.

söndag 18 december 2011

Chocolate (ช็อคโกแลต, 2008)

2008 was a marvelous year for thai-action. Not only did we see Tony Jaa in the masterpiece Ong-Bak 2 (yes, it was), there was also the charming Som Tum (Released in the west as Muay Thai Giant, more of a family movie, but with great fights and stunts) and the subject of this review: Chocolate, a movie retitled Zen - Warrior Within for the scandianvian release! Terrible "new" title, but probably more easy to sell to stupid teenagers.

JeeJa Yanin plays Zen, an autistic girl that has a real talent: she's extremly fast and learns martial arts quicker than anyone else. Born by a thai woman and a japanese gangster, she's now starving together with her cancer-sick mother and a chubby boy called Mang Moom. First she and Mang Moom starts to have shows on the streets where she catches oranges and other round objects. One day the find her mothers old book where all the people owning her money are written down. Moom and Zen are start collecting the money, and suddenly - with the help of some Tony Jaa-movies - Zen is a martial arts champion, kicking her way through gangsters and other lowlife!

If you fight (no pun intended) your way through the first half hour of thai soft-rock and even lamer popsongs, you will find one of the coolest and most spectacular fight-movies I've seen in a long time. This the second time I've seen it but I honestly didn't remember that it was SO much action in it! The first three fights/chases are vintage Jackie Chan, even if Yanin isn't as quick as a young Jackie or Tony Jaa nowdays. It even get's a bit nasty when people are really getting hurt during the slaughterhouse-fight. One guy kicks to high and get's his foot stuck in a meat hook, looses his balance and get's hangning in it. Brutal and a nice touch! Then it get more serious and quite bloody in a couple of cool sequences, until the stunt-filled finale where people are falling like rain from the walls and roof of a seedy building in the middle of Bangkok.

The only problem is that JeeJa Yanin is quite small and it's hard to believe that she can pull those powerful punches. And the stuntmen are taking it more easy with her than with Tony Jaa or Dan Chupong. But the fighting is beautifully staged and the stunts are wild and painful. This is a movie that deserves much more praise and press than it gotten so far.

A movie that grows and gets better for each time. Good stuff!

fredag 16 december 2011

Necromancer (จอมขมังเวทย์, 2005)

Another thai-movie from my collection that I haven't watched - until now! Necromancer is a very fine, and serious, cop/horror-movie that deals with traditional thai black magic. It's set in world like our own, but the cops are familiar with black magic and has to catch criminals with the same powers. I'm not sure about the names, but Akara Amarttayakul plays Santi - a young inspector that want's to catch a very powerful magician, an ex-cop that has been imprisoned for corruption and murder, but escaped with the help of his powers.

He travels to the south of Thailand and sets up an office in a town where a lot of black magic is going on, and soon he's getting closer to the magician. But at the same time he get's himself more and more involved with black magic and slowly looses his sense of respect towards other people. To catch this magician... he needs to be a master of black magic himself!

The story dosen't seem to be that much, but the actors are very strong and makes very good performances, among the best I've seen in a thai movie! As a horror movie it works ok, but it's like a cop-movie it turns really good. Of course we're treated to some nasty black magic to, and the best one is when one of the characters sends his young son after the magician and it turns very macabre and quite bloody. We also have a skinning and a very gory cut throat. The visual effects are most of the times good, except the computer animated bull (and a dog to!) that's terrible. But on the other hand, it's supposed to be a spirit-animal anyway.

Another reason to see Necromancer is Chatchai Plengpanich, a fine veteran actor who always makes brilliance and intensive performances. For us who appreciates very obscure Thai film he's also the hero in the nasty Cannibal Mercenary. Recently he did some magnificent acting in Slice also. A man who makes every movie he's in a little bit better.

This was just something short about a movie I really think is worth getting. Excellent acting and a few nasty surprises makes this a very solid thriller from Thailand.

torsdag 15 december 2011

Curse of the Sun (สุริยะฆาต, 2004)

It's strange that Curse of the Sun has got so little attention during the years. It only has sixteen votes on IMDB and just one review in german. Not that it's a hidden masterpiece, far from it - but when a movie that has so much crazy, bloody and gory action, black magic and explosion even isn't available on cinemageddon - then something is wrong. Of course I own the thai-dvd and I gave it a spin today for the first time since 2006.

This is a story about a woman who's married to a famous actor. She's arrested, by mistake, for being involved in some illegal jewel-activies. She's free again and now the police are after the real bad guys. But those want her dead and tries to assassinate her, but she survives. When she's at the hospital her boyfriend is getting killed in car-accident (of course an assassionation to!) and now the hunt for her begins again!

But the thing is: the bad guys are really zombies! They are resurrected by an evil black magic priest and sends them out one after another to kill, steal and destroy! He's also resurrecting the dead boyfriend and sending him out to kill his girlfriend! Lucky she's protected by Bangkoks finest!

Oh, the story and twists are so stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. The girlfriend dosen't know that her boyfriend has died in car-crash for example, a fact hidden by friends and family so she won't die of the shock or something stupid like that. I guess he has to be really surprised in the end of the movie when she sees who the killer is! The cops are acing mega-stupid, there's silly we're-so-happy-flashbacks complete with soft thai-pop and... did I mention that everything is stupid? Hmm, maybe there's a reason that this is a quite unknown movie?

But wait! If everything is stupid, the action delivers! Thank Buddha for that! It's probably not the highest budgeted-movie I've seen, and it looks quite cheap sometime. The director handles his duties quite well, but the confusing editing and very, very thin script probably makes it worse. But at least they spent some blood and money on the action. It's gory and bloody, hundreds of squibs, brutal knife-stabbings (graphic stuff I must say), explosions, motorcross-chases and wild stunts, a very fake car-chase that ends in a couple of very fake crashes, walls and windows shot to pieces. This is John Woo thai-style with black magic and "funny" supporting actors.

If I can recall correct I didn't like this when I saw it the first time. I probably expected something else after watching Tony Jaa ruling the action-scene in Thailand. This is far from that quality, but just watch it and have a lot of fun. Bring out the popcorn. Bring out the beer!

onsdag 14 december 2011

Nuk Leng Pah Suk (นักเลงป่าสัก, 1975)

A village terrorized by bandits! A man arriving to set things straight once again - a classic tale and another fine action movie with Sombat Metanee kicking ass.

...It's not only about kicking ass of course, even if the movie starts off with the bandits causing trouble in town - including a nasty gang rape and the beating of the friendly hunky farmer. Cue Sombat and another guy who looks like he's a Mexican from the beginning, with a three-four day shadow and ready to protect himself from the first robber that shows up.

He soon befriends Sombat, who in his cowboy hat and with his trademark hair-lock, seem more than willing to protect the town from the evil Kanchit Kwanpracha (sporting a nice moustache) and the woman behind it all - an actress I haven't identified yet. Anyway, together Sombat and the Mexican starts helping the villagers and it leads to a climatic battle during a violent rain...

As usual I've been watching a movie without subtitles, which isn't because I'm trying to learn Thai (but I would love to) but because it's hard to find these oldies with English subtitles. The stories is often quite easy to follow, and this is no exception. There's a lot of talk in-between the action, but everything leads to a visual scene of carnage and it's easy to understand who's the baddie and who's not. The female lead is the beautiful and talented Aranya Namwong, who did a lot of movies together with Sombat. Billed as the new Petchara Chaowarat she carved herself an impressive career and can still be seen in modern movies.

In smaller parts we also see the great, legendary bald henchman Pipop Pupinyo and Sukon Koewliam, the veteran actor with a classic, stylish Hitler-moustache!

But like most movies starring Sombat from this period the action is the most important thing and Nuk Leng Pah Suk delivers on that part. We're not talking modern martial arts, or even inspired by the Hong Kong industry. This is good old fist-fighting, lots of shoot-outs and a few fun stunts here and there. The finale is especially impressive, when our heroes and the baddies meets up out on a field in heavy pouring rain with a ton of guns and protected only by cars and tractors. It's violent and raw, and with a huge body count. It also ends in a big flooding and we're treated to some primitive truck-miniatures drown in the wave of water!

Another fun scene is when Sombat and the Mexican dresses up like female prostitutes and infiltrates the lair to free their girlfriends and other women that are held prisoners there.

The soundtrack is dramatic, and the dance-friendly version of the theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly fits better than you can imagine. Another Morricone-track, from Once Upon a Time in the West also adds to the melodrama in the final scene.

Movies like this don't have complicated stories or advanced complex characters. It's all about the entertainment, the "buffness" of Sombat Metanee, the action and the beautiful ladies kicking butt. It might only attract nerds like me and the older Thai generation, but I'm happy a few of these movies still exists. Sombat made (he still works) over 600 productions in his career (he once claimed 2000 productions, but how knows?) and a lot of them comes alive because of his charisma.

A true movie star, a true legend.