onsdag 29 februari 2012

Trip to Thailand

In a couple of days I will travel to Thailand, with Bangkok as base, and enjoy my favorite country. My plan is to meet up with some talented and interesting people, actors and filmmakers and some journalists, and of course do a lot of movie shopping.

There will be some really cool people who I'm finally gonna meet, a couple of them connected to what I'm writing about on this blog. I will publish photos and reports from my travels during next month, so welcome back and have a great time!


lördag 25 februari 2012

Hanuman and the 5 Riders (1974)

It was in December last year since I wrote something about Sompote Sands, and that's way to long ago! So here we have Mr Sands unauthorized version of Kamen Rider, Hanuman and the 5 Riders - made as a sequel to his absurd Ultraman-movie The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. the Monster Army! The Ultraman-movies where actually official co-productions with Tsuburaya Productions, but when Sands wanted to make himself a Kamen Rider-movie he got a no from Toei... but he just fucked that and made a movie anyway!

To watch this movie with out subtitles is very confusing, and I guess it even will be confusing with subtitles, but the Kamen Riders are driving around on their cool motorbikes, kicking monsters and demons. All these are footage directly lifted from the Toei-movie Five Riders Vs. King Dark! Inserted here and there is another version of King Dark, but this time made of papier-maché and silver tape, sitting in his dungeon with a machine that sucks the blood from virgins (I don't know if they are virgins, but it sounds better) a his very small army of worthless soldiers. So he kidnaps a young hunky scientist that builds a machine to him that creates four (or maybe five) manimals! Yes, it's Thai guys with very crude pig, hen, lizard and so on - masks! One of they even lays explosive eggs!

But soon Hanuman comes to the rescue and fights the bad guys... and a lot of other stuff happens too. Sort of.

It's not easy to blame this movie for being boring, because it's so damn absurd and funny all the time. The original Kamen Rider-footages is fun and with the typical Japanese TV-quality, but the new Thai-footage is even funnier with extremely primitive effects, action, silly comedy, monster-battles and not so good copies of the original Kamen Riders. It's obviously a family-movie, but when you least expect it you'll get some very cheap gore and nudity thrown in your face - which is only good - and it gets downright sleazy in some moments. One of the highlights is when the three robbers from The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. the Monster Army are brought down to hell and there witness naked women being tortured with spears and men being boild alive in a huge pot!

In another memorable scene the hunky scientist is tickled so much that he pee's in the face of one of the evil henchmen! That's comedy!

Hanuman and the 5 Riders is hardly a good film, but it brings some blood, nudity and good family values to us all. We should be grateful to mr Sompote Sands for that!

fredag 24 februari 2012

Thai Police Story (1986)

I guess you've seen that cheap collection of three thai action movies? It's the more famous of Panna Rittikrai's movies, Born to Fight and then we have the ultra-boring Spirited Killer. Born to Fight is quite good and has some good action and stunts, but the strange thing is the third movie - first released as a bonus flick during it's BCI-run - Thai Police Story (The original title is 2 Nuk Soo Poo Ying Yai). But even if it's dubbed, has a crappy print and fullscreen this is actually the best movie of the set - at least if you want wonderful, crazy micro-budget thai-action!

The story is forgettable, but it's something about the son of a mafia boss who befriends one of his bodyguards (played by Panna by the way), and this bodyguard is also friend with a police - and they're friends, but on opposite side of the law. Of course another gang want's more power and the action begins. And action is the main word here. The movie is 57 minutes long and and has so much fun and ultra-violent action that it just never becomes boring. Here we have real contact fighting, fucking painful stunts, big squibs, bad overacting and more stunts.

As usual with Panna Rittikrai's early movies you see a lot of stunts that later was perfected in modern Tony Jaa-movies. Here we have a fight with (I think) six people on top of a truck, people falling off of course, which echoes the in title-only remake of Born to Fight (good one by the way, Dan Chupong should get more work!) and a lot of moves and gags that you can see in all the new movies now. The fighting is actually very good, but here the focus is painful stunts instead of long fighting scenes.

If you enjoy lowbudget asian action flicks that's more obscure than a lot of other movies, give Thai Police Story a chance and I'm quite sure you won't be disappointed. This is good stuff from the master of stupid stunts, Panna Rittikrai!

torsdag 23 februari 2012

Fireball (2009)

Finally I can stop complaining about modern Thai action, like I did here and here. Fireball probably has less budget than the two movies I linked to, but is a helluva good little action movie. A while I ago I saw another movie by the same director, Demon Warriors - and I liked it, but felt it ended in an anticlimax. Fireball is the opposite. It starts at full speed and goes more brutal, violent and spectacular until the final showdown.

If I got the story correct, Tan (Preeti Barameeanat) get's his brother killed in an illegal sport where the teams combine basket with Muay Thai. He, himself, gets almost killed and spends a year in the hospital. After he gets out he want to take revenge and starts playing with a new and upcoming team of fighters. The team is lead by a new gangster, who took over the team after his boss died. But who can they trust? The enemy teams are even more brutal, and is not afraid of using weapons to win their games, and with the right amount of money they can be forced to loose a game, and even loose their life to make the boss happy...

This is a raw and brutal movie with a lot of fighting and action. Director Thanakorn Pongsuwan uses his budget well, and creates a dirty and realistic version of the poor part of Bangkok. For once they heroes (and bad guys) aren't honorable country folks or rich well dressed kids. These are the ones that lives under the highway, selling t-shirts to tourists, working hard in the meat district and just are very poor and want to make extra money to get away and get a new life. Pongsuwan has caught the locations very good (I've been there, and lived there, myself - and I feel like I'm there again) and it's just very realistic. Fireball is also shot (beautiful by the way) digitally, which makes the atmosphere even more grittier.

Before I get to the action, I have to say that the actor and script is well above average. These feel like real people, not just caricatures of what people expect from a martial arts movie. They react in logical way, have emotions and the acting is subtle. After the cinematic turds of Hanuman and The Sanctuary, it's a welcome change of quality. Then we have the action. This is hard-hitting and brutal, quite a lot of blood and it feels painful - mostly because all fights are set on asphalt and concrete. The editing is also very rapid, but for once you can understand what's happening and it never becomes irritating. I'm impressed, really.

Fireball is the best modern Thai action I've seen since Tony Jaa's latest, without comparing them - they're totally different in style and mood. But I think you should see it and judge for yourself. I'm already looking forward to the prequel, where the origin of Fireball is explained - which starts during the Vietnam-war. Can be amazing!

onsdag 22 februari 2012

Sick Nurses (2007)

Once upon a while I stumbles over a film that I never heard of, but who seems so twisted and fun that I just have to see it. Sick Nurses is a sick little movie from Thailand, but a sick movie with a lot of humour and tounge in cheek. It's part a parody/satire over the typical Asian long-haired ghosts, and also a very black comedy about how seven superficial nurses get what they deserve!

The hospitals favorite doctor is young, handsome and fucks all the nurses. He's also the leading bodysnatcher in the area, together with his nurses. He steals bodies from the hospital and sells in the black market. But with so many beautiful and egocentrical nurses around, there must be intrigue and fights - and when everyone think one of the nurses is gonna marry him, the other ones kill her and together with him they sell the body. Well, try to anyway. After having the body in his trunk for seven days, he's tired of it.... and so are the vengeful spirit of the dead nurse, who decides to take out her gruesome revenge in one bloody, dark night...

Yes, this movie is about a long-haired female ghost killing people. BUT... it's also a very clever and funny satire where the filmmakers toy with the clichés, twist them around a little bit and makes something that's more of a very black comedy than a pure horror movie. Sure, of course there's plenty of horror elements, but they are often so weird that they become more bizarre than scary. For exampel, one character gets her jaw ripped of and suffocated with a fetus! Another one kills one hundred faceless nurse-ghosts by stabbing them with a pregnancy test. Another one get's stuck in her handbag in a very special way. The ghost is painted black with slightly blonde hair and uses her power to make the characters to do outrageous stuff.

The style of the movie is also very cool. It reminds me more of John Waters, Wisit Sasanatieng and some people with less imagination would say the whole movie is a visual tribute to Mario Bava, and to a degree, even Dario Argento. There's splashes of strong colors everywhere, often red or green, the angles are stylish and there's a European feeling to some of the set-ups: static camera, and a lot of weird stuff is going on at the edge of the framing. Gore? Yes, but not THAT much. The first hour is virtually goreless, but with a lot of bizarre scenes, and then we're treated some delicious splatter-scenes with a lot of blood-spurting and some original digital and physical effects.

I think the movie is quite low budget, but the crew has done a great job making it look fantastic. The humour is fun, and sometimes very subtle with a lot of attention to details. The characters might me shallow, but that's part of the concept in the movie. Everything is about looks, fortune, power and sex. My favorite character is the nurse who tries to loose weight all the time by vomiting, and later she brushes her teeth and eating a suger-donut at the same time!

Fun, fun, fun. This is a small but almost brilliant black comedy, which will make many disappointed by distributors who tries to make it look like a grim and serious J-horror movie. Pearls before swine, to be honest.

tisdag 21 februari 2012

Mysterious Object at Noon (2000)

My love for experimental film has growing bigger and bigger the last years, and one of the movies I've been looking forward most to see is Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mysterious Object at Noon. The director is letting the working class of Thailand improvise a story about a handicapped boy and his strange teacher. We begin with a woman selling tuna from a truck telling her lifestory, until she's asked to tell a story herself and from there the story is told all over Thailand, by different people in all ages.

Apichatpong also dramatizes the story, but also with different people, no actors of course, just normal people trying to tell a story. Sometime the filming is stopped and he even shoot the break or when the actors are rehearsing their lines. There's no rules, except keeping the story moving. The cinematography is black and white, very simple and documentary. The movie was made during three years, and is very abstract but also very free. This is so far from a controlled movie you can come. It's organic, intelligent and very absurd.

The story that's evolving goes from social realism to science fiction, and everything is tied together very interesting in the end. The longer the movie goes, more documentary and less conventional movie.It's hard to explain this movie, and it was quite far away from what I had expected when I first heard about it. But this is that kinda of movie that makes me feel alive again, after one empty movie after another. Not that it's nothing wrong with explosions, gore, car chases, monsters and martial arts - I love that stuff - but if you eat something good over and over again, it will soon loose it's taste.

That's why I'm happy that movies like Mysterious Object at Noon exists - to give me a little vacation until the next rubbermonster falls into my lap.

måndag 20 februari 2012

Scared (2005)

I'm not sure what to write about Scared, but it's an entertaining piece of thai-cinema with a paper-thin script, all young actors look the same and easily to understand even without subtitles. A school class is celebrating end of school (I guess... maybe it's just summer vacation or something), so they're going out on a bus trip. After crashing with the bus - and the driver gets his face impaled by a big piece of wood - they try to get back to civilization. But something or someone don't want them to leave the countryside, and one by one they died en bizarre and bloody accidents or get hunted down by a very violent killer!

The story isn't much more than that, but except the silly ending, this is a fun and competent splatter movie with a decent budget and actors more cute than good. This project must have been planned to be a summer blockbuster and create poster-stars of most of the cast. I'm not sure that happen, I'm not even sure it became a big success, but still - I like it a lot and I'm surprised that it's not out DVD in the US or Europe. Shot on HD it looks very good without probably costing to much to produce. The actors are all around their twenties and are there to get killed and nothing more. And look cute I guess.

What makes this movie extra special is the generous amount of gore. Most of the killings is very graphic. I think that at least five or six of the victims have their heads impaled, crushed or something else. The head, or at least the top of the head, is sacred in Thailand so I think this makes it even more powerful. But then we have a lot of other nasty killings and the body count is very, very high. But all this is made with a tongue-in-cheek approach and even if I don't understand everything, I realize that the beginning of the movie is a parody of asian ghost-movies. Which is quite funny.

But the big problem is the ending. It's not that bad (like everything is a dream or something stupid like that) and it's possible to accept, but it's also a cheap way to end a very advanced set-up. It's been done before and I hope it will never happen again. But don't that scare you, this is a gory and over-the-top splatter movie which makes the last Final Destination to look like a piece of... crap.

lördag 4 februari 2012

Hurricane (เจ้าพายุ, 1980)

Released on VHS is Sweden has "Thunder Kid", but the title literary means Hurricane (at least according to Google Translate). This is a seldom seen movie from the master of action, Kom Akadej. He also directed The Killer Elephants (I've released it on DVD and it's possible to buy here). The Killer Elephants is a bit corny, especially with the ridiculous English dubbing, but Hurricane is a violent power-package of cinematic action. Like almost every Thai movie from this era (which also characterizes the Bollywood production from that time) Hurricane is a mix of action, some comedy, a lot of melodrama and love story. But Akadej always knew what the audience wanted: action and action and action!

Sorapong Chatree grows up as the bastard step-son of hard-hitting cop Sombat Metanee. Sombat is treating him very badly. So our hero grows up to be a hot-heated young man who ends up in prison. There he learns to fight and be a man, and the sole reason is that he wants his childhood love back, the daughter of a local mafia boss. But the mafia don't want him alive, and they're also out to kill Sombat! What complicates everything even more is that the son of the mafia boss is his half brother! And... yeah, I got lost in the plot twist after thirty minutes! Sorry!

Yes, the story is quite convoluted and it's hard to follow all the storylines and characters, which is a weakness. But the movie is almost two hours long and keeps up the pace in a very good way, mixing action and good drama and some very silly comedy scenes with Sorapong trying to woo a girl with helping her on the farm, getting stuck with doing the dishes, cleaning the car, doing the laundry etc. On the other hand, those scenes are also quite funny and Sorapong has a good sense for slapstick comedy.

Sombat Metanee almost has an extended cameo and he's visible mostly in the beginning and in the end, but he's also excellent in a very complex part as a slightly bent cop. When we first meet him he's violent and nasty, very dark - and next time, many years later, he's an alcoholic - and in the end he's a raging revenge-filled man! It's a nice part and I guess this was one of the movies that built Metanee's career from being the typical hero to an impressive character actor. In other parts we see Nard Poowanai and my favorite baddie, Dam Datsakorn! Mr Baldy himself, Pipop Pupinyo shows up, looks angry and gets shot do death. Like in so many other movies.

I haven't seen much by Kom Akadej, but this movie proves that he was the Walter Hill/Sam Peckingpah/John Frankenheimer of Thai movies. The action is extremely well-edited and violent, and it just goes on and on without getting boring or repetitive. The best sequence is the final, a shootout in the cheapest place possible - an industrial sandpit - where Sorapong, Sombat and another fellow shoots a lot of bullets at each other. With hack behind the camera this could have been the most boring scene ever, but Akadej gives us a sensational action scene with intelligent use of slow-motion, cool angles and rapid editing. Fantastic! Before this we also see a very squib- and slow-motion filled shootout at a farm and a great fistfight up on two logs hanging from a crane!

Hurricane, or Thunder Kid, is a great and hard-to-get action film from Thailand. If you get a chance, see it and love it!