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By otakuman5000 On 28 Jul, 2011 At 02:32 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Movie News, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarRed, White, and Blue or Red, White, and Blew?

Captain America is a pitch perfect movie that ties together the entire Marvel Cinema Universe, establishes Cap’s place in it, and provides a launch pad for next year’s Avengers.

I was initially a bit hesitant when I heard that Joe Johnston had been chosen to helm the production of Cap, as he did not seem like a particularly inspired choice.  John Favreau was a perfect fit for the tone of Iron Man and all the witty banter that made the characters work so well, and Kennethn Branagh really brought the family dynamic of the Thor characters to the forefront.  Looking at Joe Johnston’s previous work (Jurassic Park 3, Hidalgo, Jumanji) I knew that he would make a good film, but I wasn’t sure Cap could match the heights of Iron Man or even Thor.  Then I remembered that he also directed one of my favorite childhood super hero movies, The Rocketeer.   I’m relieved to report that Johnston creates another fun ride that hits all the right notes and delivers an amazingly fun summer blockbuster.

The movie is shot with wide angles and very few quick cuts.  Though not as kinetic as many current film styles, it’s a classic approach that perfectly frames Cap’s WWII era America.  The sets look authentic and all of the period attire helps create a believable world that is easy to get drawn in to.  The cast also does a wonderful job helping the comic characters jump from page to screen.  Chris Evans combines just the right amount of charm, bravery, and modesty to create the definitive Steve Rogers/Captain America.  His character arc is all the more believable, thanks to the movie’s first act utilizing some incredible digital effects to create the small and frail pre-super soldier Steve Rogers.  Haley Atwell (who plays Peggy Carter) also sparks some genuine chemistry with Chris Evans making their love story seem organic and unforced.  Everyone from Sebastian Stan (Buckey Barnes) and Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark) to Tommy Lee Jones (Colonel Phillips) play their characters perfectly and provide a  solid supporting cast for Johnston and Evans to play with.  However, no one relishes their screen time like Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull.  He seems to be having a blast chewing out lines in what I can only describe as a diabolically evil Arnold Schwarzenegger impression.  Hugo Weaving in the full-on Red Skull make-up sneering, insulting his troops, and taunting Cap is worth the price of admission alone.

Hector Hammond vs Cap?

The movie has a few scenes where the effects can’t quite keep up with everyone’s imagination, but for the most part it works.  One place where they really nailed it was in the costume design.  Cap’s costume looks fine on paper (especially when he’s battling a giant head in a floating chair) but would look cheesy if translated directly to film.  Cap has several costumes in the movie, all of which pay homage to the source material but make natural and necessary changes to make sense in the film world.  And then there’s his iconic shield.   Comic book ink made solid and real through effects alchemy, the shield looks great and is worthy of a fanboy’s eyes (and ears).  I loved the sound effects attached to the shield (I could imagine SWOOSH’s and K-TANG’s in bright letters accompanying the shield throws a la TV’s Batman).

So how does it rank with the rest of Marvel’s Cinema Universe?  I can’t say that it tops Iron Man, but it stands toe-to-toe in vying for leadership of the Avengers.  I highly recommend seeing it to complete the set-up arc to the Avengers, as there are a ton of Easter eggs sprinkled throughout every other frame of Cap.  There are nods to Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor.  Knowledge of the Marvel Movie Universe is not a prerequisite, however.  The film works just as well as a stand-alone underdog story and epic action film.  I was entertained and the movie reminded me of some of the best action adventure films from my childhood.  The cast, costumes, and sets hit all the right marks.  Joe Johnston, Chris Evans and co.  deliver a fun-filled summer blockbuster and superhero film worthy of hero worship.

Recommendati0n:  It’s 0n.  Go see it now or the terrorists win.

The More You Know:  The Avengers movies have grossed almost a billion dollars domestically and close to 2 Billion worldwide.  (This only reflects totals from Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor)

–  Stay after the credits for a secret scene that leads into an Avengers trailer!!!

-In Russia, Korea, and Ukraine the movie is simply called The First Avenger.

-Director Joe Johnston worked on the visual effects for Raiders of the Lost Ark and the original Star Wars trilogy.  He helped design Yoda and Boba Fett.

"America Still Needs Your Help!!!"

By otakuman5000 On 22 Jun, 2011 At 01:26 PM | Categorized As Featured, Movie News, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarIn Brightest Day, In Darkest Dawn, Beware Green Lantern’s Yawn…

The filmmakers behind Green Lantern have been all-too-quick to compare it to Star Wars.  Unfortunately, the comparison is apt.  Green Lantern is very reminiscent of Star Wars…Episode I…  The Phantom Men’s Ass.  For every visually interesting moment or action sequence there is an equally dull or juvenile exchange, and the movie is rife with bizarre gaps in logic.

I have to start by saying that I do not read Green Lantern and therefore know very little about how the film diverges from the comic.  Because of this I went into the movie with very little in the way of expectations, but the movie still managed to disappoint me.  Due to my limited knowledge of the Green Lantern universe, my major gripes are not with how good of a comic to movie translation the film is, but how underwhelming of a movie it is in general.

The Green Lantern Corps is an intergalactic peace keeping force who have harnessed the “emerald energy” of will as a tool to mete out justice.  When one of the Corps’ elite members, Abin Sur, is attacked by a mysterious alien and mortally wounded, he begins searching for a replacement.  He arrives on the nearest inhabited planet, Midgard/Earth, and sends his ring to seek out one who is worthy of the power and responsibility of being a Green Lantern.  The ring chooses a test pilot, Hal Jordan (played with affable charm by Ryan Reynolds) and he sets off on a journey to the Lantern Corps’ home world to learn how to wield his new-found power.  Hal is spirited away to Oa, a distant planet that is inhabited by the architects of the Corp and serves as a training ground for new recruits.  The design of Oa (composed entirely of CGI) and its many inhabitants is one of the movie’s highlights.  The whole training sequence where Hal meets other Green Lanterns and learns how to focus his imagination through his power ring to create “hard light constructs” is where the movie shines.  This sequence lasts about ten minutes, then it’s back to Earth.  We are only given a cursory introduction to the other members of the Corp and before we even get to learn anyone’s back-story, the film’s budget and creative steam runs out.  When Hal returns to Earth, every single boring minute and frame of film is an exercise in paint-by-numbers (with lots of green paint) storytelling and every plot development is painfully predictable.  The whole show just plain lacks creativity and that’s the real problem here.

We must hurry back to Earth before our budget runs out!

 

Hal’s Green Lantern power ring allows him to construct anything he can imagine and utilize it to accomplish various tasks. Apparently, a prerequisite for becoming a Green Lantern is to possess the dullest, most pedestrian imagination possible.  Hal squanders his ring’s power to conjure a sword, a brick wall, a big fist, and a bucket of water throughout the film.  Had the ring chosen…

With great cabbage, comes great responsibility…

a head of cabbage to be the newest GLC (Green Lantern Corp) recruit, I’m sure it would have been able to come up with some more interesting constructs (maybe a wall of coleslaw or a fist composed of coleslaw… perhaps a bucket of coleslaw).  The effects are done well, especially the suit or second skin that the powering gives to its bearer.  The suit actually looks different on the various races that make up the GLC.  On certain aliens it creates an effect that looks like scales, on others it looks like a green hide, and on Ryan Reynolds it appears as a second layer of musculature.  The suit flexes and moves with the characters and pulses with green energy.  The CGI for the suit actually looks quite good most of the time, but there are a couple of weird moments where the effect doesn’t mesh with the live actor and it looks like Ryan Reynolds’ floating head with a CGI body underneath.

There are also a few subplots that are shoehorned into the film that never have a pay off.  For example, there is a scene where Angela Basset’s character’s tragic back-story is shown as a flashback, after which she pretty much disappears for the rest of the film.  While we’re on the subject of unnecessary characters and the overly talented actors who play them, Peter Sarsgard plays one of the film’s villains (Hector Hammond).  Peter Sarsgard is an extremely talented actor but simply cannot keep himself from chewing the scenery then punching through its remains with giant ham-fists.  It’s not really his fault, as he isn’t given much to do but scream and keep his massive head from lolling to the side like some rotting melon filled with… coleslaw.

 

Most epic comb-over ever!

Overall, I was just plain bored by the Green Lantern.  I expected more from director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Goldeneye, and the Mask of Zorro), who’s previous work I have really enjoyed.  There may be a lot that was left 0n the cutting room floor that, when restored (much like DareDevil), would make for a more compelling and cohesive tale, but that’s no excuse for squandering the potential of a beloved franchise and the generosity of millions of fans.  The most disappointing thing about the film is that it almost assures there will be no Justice League movie, and that Ryan Reynolds will never get to play The Flash (a character he has been attached to for years and one that would have been a far better fit for his talents).  They do leave a few bread crumbs at the end of the film in order to leave the doors open for sequels, but I doubt anyone will care about what happens next.

 

Recommendati0n: Instead of watching the Green Lantern, go watch the Green Mile, or the Green Zone, or even the Green Hornet.  Hell, I’ll even throw in Soylent Green as a throw-back.  Wait ’till this flick hits Green-Ray, as hopefully there will be a Director’s Cut that restores some subplots and covers up plot holes.

The More You Know: Ryan Reynolds has had a tumultuous career as a superhero.  He played Hannibal King in the disappointing finale to the Blade Trilogy, was cast as Wade Wilson/Deadpool in the awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and now has played Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern.  At least he is trying to spread out the disappointment between both MARVEL and DC universes.

-Ryan Reynolds dated Alanis Morisette for 5 years.  A little ironic, don’t ya think?

-Ryan Reynolds would have been the perfect choice to play Richard Rider in a Nova movie.  (Nova and the Nova Corps are the MARVEL Universe’s analog of DC’s Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps).  Even their names are similar!

-After doing some more research, I have found that the movie skews pretty far from the source material when it comes to several of the main characters and how they’re represented on screen.

-If you go see it, there is an extra scene after the credits.

 

A far better choice for a Green Lantern recruit. Even better than that head of cabbage from before…

 

By otakuman5000 On 4 Jun, 2011 At 05:52 PM | Categorized As Featured, Movie News, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarDoes X-Men: First Class pass or fail?

Both, depending on how you look at it…

X-Men: First Class is a massively successful and entertaining superhero film, trumped only by its monumental failure as a prequel.

DO NOT go into this movie thinking that it’s a prequel.  The movie posters, trailers, and promos would all have you believe that this is where the X-Men trilogy started.  Do not believe the hype.  First Class seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, not sure whether it wants to be a franchise reboot or a prequel.  There are so many continuity errors that it seems impossible to think that the film was intended as a prequel, but for every one of these blatant errors, there’s a line of dialogue, visual cue, or cameo that suggests otherwise.  Trust me, forget about the original trilogy, go in with an open mind, and you’ll be blown away.

The core of the movie is about Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (“Master of Magnet”), Charles Xavier (Prof. X), the development of their friendship, and the events that will inevitably turn them into nemesises… nemesi?  Nemeses.  Michael Fassbender (300, Inglorious Bastards) and James McAvoy (Wanted, The Chronic-What-cles of Narnia) carry the weight of the film on their capable shoulders, but it’s Fassbender who really shines.  I’ve liked him in everything I have seen him in, but his layered performance as Erik Lehnsherr propelled him onto a new level for me.  If Matthew Vaughn and Michael Fassbender got back together for a Magneto spin-off, I would be all in.  Speaking of Matthew Vaughn, (who got his superhero training while directing KICK-ASS) he does some great things here to revitalize the X franchise.  After the great X films directed by Bryan Singer, the let down that was Bret Rattner’s X3, and the epic failure that was Wolverine, the franchise needed a fresh injection of creative talent and artistic vision.  I am happy to report that Matthew Vaughn brings both to the table.  The movie is shot with style and energy and Vaughn just seems to “get it” when it comes to comic book source material.  A sequence with Magneto in Argentina and a split screen training montage being a couple of the standout scenes in a movie filled with awesome moments.  I would go so far as to say that First Class outclasses all of the other X-Men movies that came before (chronologically after).  I hope the positive buzz and almost assured box office success generate more X-Men movies from Vaughn and co. Let’s hope they get progressively better instead of worse, this time around.

Magneto, Moira MacTaggert, Emma Frost, Azazel, Beast, Havok, Angel, Mystique, and Mr. Tumnus

 

The performances from the rest of the cast are a mixed bag.  This is mostly due to the D-list X-men characters that were adapted for the movie.  Characters like Tempest (Angel in the film) and Riptide just aren’t that deep, and they are not on the screen for enough time to warrant an explanation of their power-sets and backgrounds.  The actors just do not have that much to work with.  The characters you do know, such as Beast, Emma Frost, and fan-favorite Havok are all well represented and are given enough screen time to hit some iconic poses.  Beast fares particularly well and delivers an interesting character arc and some excellent fight work.  Much of this is due to Nicholas Hoult (the kid from About a Boy, all grown up) and his performance which combines just the right amount of Hank McCoy’s bookworm side and the more primal facets of the Beast.  One character that surprised me was Banshee, played by Caleb Landry Jones, who I never really liked in the comics but completely warmed up to during the film.  Most importantly, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender proved to be absolutely perfect casting choices.

"Die, X-Chicken!"

The same way that The Dark Knight was a crime drama with more in common with Heat than Superman,  First Class is more of a spy caper that happens to take place in the X-Men universe.  It’s set against the backdrop of the 60’s and the Cuban Missile Crisis, but handles the “What If” alternate history routine better than Watchmen did, and it feels natural to see these characters in that time period.  Great set design and costumes help sell the 60’s vibe and the movie looks polished overall.  The visual effects, both practical and digital, are a little hit and miss but it’s easy to forgive when what’s happening on screen is so engrossing.  A lot of the visuals looked great on the big screen, but that’s not the reason I would recommend seeing First Class in the theater.  The sound design simply cannot be reproduced at home when the movie gets released on Bluray.  You can actually feel the movie theater shake when Magneto uses his abilities.

The movie’s epic run-time of 2 hours and 12 minutes, is actually deserved.  It will strain your butt & bladder, but it’s worth it.  I can’t really think of anything that could have been cut, as everything shown served the story and pushed the characters towards the inevitable final standoff.  Finally, a final showdown in a comic book movie that’s as good as what we’re used to seeing on the printed page.  The action packed finale is well choreographed, interestingly shot, and paced to showcase everyone’s abilities.  I’ve found most superhero movies that start with a bang unable to properly carry the momentum through the end of the final fight (e.g., Batman tackling Two-Face, Iron Man and War Machine high fiving to beat Whiplash, Superman helping Lex Luthor move an island into space, and don’t even get me started on optic blast heated Wolverine claws cutting off a mouth-less Deadpool’s head which proceed to shoot eye-beams as it spirals and plummets into a nuclear reactor).  Thankfully,  First Class bucks the trend and gives us a great fight and ends with a BAMF… I mean bang.

Recommendati0n: It’s 0n.  It’s worth checking out on the big screen, just remember to watch it as a reboot and not a prequel.

The more you know: Don’t sit through the credits, there’s no secret scene at the end.  No Nick Fury, no Deadpool, nothin’.

Director Matthew Vaughn was originally attached to direct X3: The Last Stand.

The script for First Class borrows from the story for X-Men Origins: Magneto.  That film was scrapped by Fox (probably after the universally panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and was instead adapted to tell the story of the birth of the X-Men and not just Magneto.

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are no strangers to comic book movie adaptations.  Fassbender was in 300 and Jonah Hex, while McAvoy was in Wanted.

Patrick Stewart is surprisingly cool with the new Professor on the block, even though McAvoy's success guarantees that Stewart will never reprise his role as Xavier…

 

Moments later.

 

 

By otakuman5000 On 7 May, 2011 At 08:56 PM | Categorized As Movie News, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarDoes Thor Bring the hammer down or drop it?

The summer movie season kicks off with a thunderous boom thanks to Marvel Studio’s THOR.  Kenneth Branagh, an unlikely choice of director for a summer blockbuster/comic movie, has crafted a fast-paced ride through a comic book world that kept me entertained from the first to final frame.  Credit has to go to Kenneth Branagh and the script for conveying a lot of THOR/MARVEL lore without coddling the audience or forcing you to sit through an hour of exposition to explain the difference between a Heimdal and a Heimlich.  A tight running time (under two hours), superb casting choices, and dazzling set/costume design propel THOR to its rightful place among MARVEL’s top tier movies.

The film kicks off with a tour of Asgard (the world which Thor and his kin hail from) and its residents.  We are introduced to Odin (played with snarling confidence by Sir Anthony Hopkins) and how he has kept evil forces at bay and watched over the realms from atop Asgard.  It is explained what Asgard is and where it exists in relation to Midgard (Earth for you non-asgardian folk) and how our histories intertwine.  The writers do a tidy job here of culling a single origin story for Thor and Asgard from several different comic myths spanning Marvel’s prime and Ultimate universes.  Basically, enough information is given for the proceedings to make sense to a new audience, but enough easter eggs and bread crumbs are given for Thor fans to be kept satisfied.  There are also plenty of hidden gems working to connect THOR to the larger Marvel Cinema Universe, but thankfully they aren’t as overt as they were in Iron Man 2.  Kudos.  We see how Thor (in a breakout performance from Chris Hemsworth aka the father of one Captain James Tiberius Kirk) has come to be Odin’s heir, and his younger brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is next in line.  A group of Frost giants, ancient enemies of Odin, breach the walls of Asgard and set the wheels in motion for Thor’s banishment to Earth.  Thor immediately sets out for the home of the frost giants to get answers and knock heads.  Disobeying Odin’s direct commands, Thor brings his world to the brink of war and Odin strips Thor of his powers and casts him down to Earth where he must learn humility before he can ascend to his rightful place as heir to the throne.  From here, Thor meets Jane Foster and Erik Selvig (Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard doing their best with some pretty plain roles), astrophysicists who are exploring the connection between Earth and Asgard.  It is at this point that the film takes on the characteristics of a fish out of water story and much of the movie’s laughs are generated.  All the while, we keep flipping back and forth to see what is occurring in Asgard during Thor’s absence.  The movie has a lighthearted sense of humor here and much of it works because Chris Hemsworth’s comic timing is impeccable.  Every time I felt that the film was beginning to meander or get too funny for its own good, it would switch back to the turmoil in Asgard.  The final act of the film is all about Thor rising up from his banishment and becoming the hero he is meant to be and features some big action set-pieces and effects work.  It’s a classic tale, but one that is shown through the lens of a new world and backed by heartfelt dramatic turns by the leads.

 

Thor, Sif, Odin, Loki, Padme, and Heimlich

Chris Hemsworth is given a lot of screen-time and rightly so.  He does a lot to humanize Thor, who has been a rather one-note character in the world of comics.  He truly looks the part, and his rigorous training pays off during the fight sequences.  Early in the film, when Thor goes to confront the frost giant’s King Laufey (Colm Feore sporting some great practical effects make-up), we are given the chance to see Thor fight like a god.  The action choreography had my eyes glued to the screen.  Chris Hemsworth, with the aid of some top notch effects work, pulls off iconic moves taken straight from the comic’s playbook and it translates extraordinarily well to the screen.  Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is also a standout performance.  In lesser hands, Loki’s role could have fallen into scenery chewing and mustache twirling, but Hiddleston imbues his Loki with just the right amount of outward conniving and inner menace.  Anthony Hopkins was also a perfect choice for Odin.  He reigns in his performance here, which could easily have been over the top, and balances Odin’s bellowing with just as much being expressed in silence or with the gaze of his one eye.  These three form the core and heart of THOR and the film works best when they are on screen and playing off of each other.  Thor’s comic book cohorts The Warrior’s Three and Sif (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, and Jaimie Alexander) are also represented, but just don’t have that much to do.  I feel like they were written in for completion’s sake.  They do look the part and have some interesting action moments, though.  The best small roles go to Idris Elba as Heimdal (Asgard’s gatekeeper and sentry) and Clark Gregg (reprising his role as Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the Iron Man movies).  Clark Gregg has fun with Agent Coulson and gets some great lines and funny moments.  Heimdal however, is seriously imposing as played by Idris Elba.  He looks and sounds exactly how I would have imagined and his brief but important role is bolstered by one of the film’s best costumes.

 

Most extravagant bathroom ever.

I hope the production crew gets some recognition for THOR because the set and costume design of Asgard is truly a spectacle.  The comic book look of each of the characters is faithfully re-imagined and given an updated sheen while seeming functional and realistic for the characters that wear them.  The set designs are grand and there is a massive amount of detail to take in.  Kenneth Branagh and his creative team did an amazing job of creating this other-worldly place, and it really does look fit for gods.  The scenery becomes a bit more humdrum during the sequences set on Earth, but that’s mostly because they take place in a small town, and are juxtaposed between the grandeur of scenes from Asgard.  If THOR does well I hope to see a bigger budget for the sequel, which can be spent to showcase more time in Asgard.

Thor has a lot going for it, but perhaps its greatest strength is the titular character’s relatively low profile in the minds of the mass market audience.  Like Iron Man before it, THOR has a great opportunity to introduce itself to audiences who have little to no expectation for what the character could bring.  THOR is not as widely recognized as Spider man, Hulk, or Wolverine.  The director, Kenneth Branagh, has no giant action movies in his credits, and the leads are relative unknowns.  Kenneth Branagh and company, however, deftly maneuver what could have been a rehash of an all-too-familiar tale into something more by giving its main characters a Shakespearean family drama as a backdrop for all of the heroics and action to play out against.  If audiences give THOR a chance I think they will be happily surprised by how well it all comes together.

Recommendati0n:  ‘Tis 0n.  Go check it out for a verily good time.

The more you know: Kenneth Branagh is actually pronounced Kenneth Branner (like Bruce Banner)

Tom Hiddleston (Loki) was originally auditioned and considered for the role of Thor.  He also worked with Kenneth Branagh on the BBC’s Wallander.

Thor was relegated to the 9th ring of development hell for nearly 20 Years with everyone from Sam Raimi and David Goyer to Matthew Vaughn and D.J. Caruso attached to the project at one point or another.

Stay for an extra scene at the end of the credits.  It’s worth it.

 

 

By otakuman5000 On 5 May, 2011 At 07:29 PM | Categorized As Featured, Movie News, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarNowheresville, Population:  This Guy.
Located a stone’s throw from Unstoppable Ass-Kickery-Ville

If you saw Ip Man 2 on BluRay recently, you caught a trailer for The Man From Nowhere.   Intrigued by the trailer, I went out and picked up a copy, and here’s what I found.  If you enjoy Korean cinema, revenge thrillers, and epic knife fights, this movie is for you.

Directed by Lee Jeong-Beom (Cruel Winter Blues) and starring Won Bin (Mother) and Kim Sae-Ron (A Brand New Life) The Man From Nowhere is a revenge thriller in the vein of Taken and Man On Fire.  Like any movie from the revenge thriller sub-genre, The Man From Nowhere is filled with familiar tropes and staples, but it’s the presentation and characterization that helps it stand out from the pack.

The basic premise follows Cha Tae-Shik (played with stoic gravitas by Won Bin) and Jeong So-Mi (admirably played by 11 year old actress Kim Sae-Ron) as kindred spirits caught in the violent underground world of the Korean organ smuggling trade.  The story opens with glimpses into the nature of Tae-Shik and So-Mi’s unconventional friendship.  They both lead solitary lives, one as a pawnshop owner with a mysterious past and the other as an outcast with a broken home life.  Tae-Shik interacts with so few that the neighborhood has nicknamed him the Pawnshop Ghost, and due to So-Mi’s absentee/stripper/drug addict mother she is a loner who just doesn’t fit in with the other kids.  Tae-Shik and So-Mi share meals together and when things get rough at So-Mi’s apartment, he lets her sleep at his (in a kind and totally non-creepy way).  Through all this, an unlikely friendship is formed and it’s given enough screen time to be believable and not seem forced.  These scenes are also where the leads really get a chance to shine.  Won Bin owns the screen saying little but conveying much through his eyes and gestures, and Kim Sae-Ron pulls off some tear jerking scenes that go straight for your heart strings.  Through a series of unfortunate events, So-Mi is kidnapped by gangsters and Tae-Shik is seemingly the only one that can help her.  The film follows a fairly predictable path from there, but includes some stand-out action sequences  and great pacing.

It’s a slow reveal as to why and how Tae-Shik ended up such a loner and is so ably qualified to go up against a crime ring.  In films like Taken and Leon/The Professional, it’s obvious from the start why the resident badass is so badass.  The kidnapping or event that requires avenging also occurs relatively early in most of these films so you can jump to the action as fast as possible.  I have to say I really enjoyed the slower build-up in The Man From Nowhere.  The characters are given plenty of room to breathe and the relationships, time to build.  The movie is also pretty bleak (like a lot of Korean Cinema) and tragedy saturates the celluloid, but this all makes the heroic moments that much more impactful and cathartic.

The Man From Nowhere Knife Fight

It slices! It dices… Every major artery you possess.

When we do get to the action, it’s pretty much a non-stop ride on a bullet train of ass-kicking.  The action is shot well and without style overriding the choreography.  You get to see every punch, kick, gunshot and stab.  And holy crap is there stabbing-a-plenty!  The Man From Nowhere has shot straight to the top of the list for some of my favorite knife fights ever filmed (in good company with The Hunted and Eastern Promises).  It’s well choreographed, unflinchingly filmed, and has that all-too- important and ever-elusive quality of being visceral.  In other words, s**t is hardcore.  The villains have a lot to do with this.  They are not portrayed as multi-dimensional or layered, but are so utterly despicable that when you finally see them getting their just deserts, it’s that much sweeter.

I can’t speak for how the BluRay compares to its theatrical release, as I did not see it on the big screen.  The BluRay, however, is a superb transfer with regards to maintaining black levels throughout most of this dark picture.  The 1080p AVC encode handles the movie’s icy blues and inky blacks with style, while providing sharp detail throughout the run time.  Audio is handled capably with the surround channels getting serious use during the action sequences.  The club scene will make your sub shake and the dialogue is crisp and clear.  Not quite reference level stuff, but the video and audio quality delivers an engaging and immersive experience.  The special features are pretty slim, though.  There are a couple of trailers, a making-of, and a clip reel showcasing key scenes.  Not really groundbreaking stuff, but still a good disc overall.

The Man From Nowhere, thanks to its direction, superb leads, and some spectacular knife fighting, ends up being more than the sum of its parts.  If you’re in the mood for a revenge thriller or are curious about Korean cinema, give The Man From Nowhere a look.

Recommendati0n: It’s 0n.  Go grab it now.  It’ll make a nice addition to your collection.

The More You Know: I got my copy from Best Buy for 16 bucks.  Not a bad price for a BluRay.  I’ve seen it for as low as $13 on Amazon, but I still enjoy shopping for my flix on the racks.