The Killer 2: The Last Bullet (1996)

FD06AE4F752F3A5DD0E0737A4F422266A gun for hire (Ace Vergel) accidentally injured a bar singer (Aiko Melendez) during his last hit—gun powder blast to the eyes left her blind. A cop expert in taekwondo (Monsour del Rosario) and his buddy (Ruel Vernal) are in pursuit of the hitman, because he could lead them to the gun syndicate who ordered the killings. Well, I may or may not have made up that last part; I already forgot much of the plot and the baddies in the story. Gun dealers, drug dealers, in action movies, what’s the difference, anyways?

I probably saw this in theater in early 2000s. Initially thought this was made in the early aughts, when local action movies has only few remaining punches left in them. And I thought they made some surprising choices. One is casting Monsour del Rosario and Ace Vergel as the cop and the killer. Ace Vergel plays a sympathetic hitman while Monsour del Rosario, the straight-A cop. Two is in having no strong or vague love angle to the story. I mean, Ace Vergel and Aiko Melendez? Three, Ruel Vernal plays a good cop. And four, it’s a rip-off (remake? sequel?) of John Woo’s The Killer (1989), with Ace Vergel playing Chow Yun Fat’s character. (Turns out, this was released in 1996. And it’s actually listed on IMDB as an unofficial sequel to The Killer.)

Huling Sagupaan has the classic two man on the opposite side of the law—cop and hitman—teaming up to go against the bigger bad guys. The hitman just wanted the singer to see again, but when his middleman friend (Dan Fernandez) is killed by the syndicate, he finally turns on the guys who initially hired him. And he needs Monsour’s high kicks and hand to hand combat expertise for some heroic bloodshed. Plot-twist, they turned out to be childhood friends.

Again, it follows The Killer, story-wise, down to the part where a child caught in the crossfire is hit by a bullet and Ace Vergel’s character takes him to the hospital. But it still makes for a fun watch, as it echoes the playful gunfights in HK action films and the local martial arts movies from the ’90s directed by Philip Ko. Oh, wait, it was actually co-directed by Philip Ko.

5 Reasons Why You Should See ‘Maria’

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Come May 17, Maria will start streaming on Netflix. If you live overseas or you missed it during its theatrical run, here’s your chance to see it. And below are five reasons why you shouldn’t miss.

1) It’s R-rated, not whiny PG-13. This is not comic book kiddie stuff, which means there’s sex and violence. Uhm, okay, not exactly—there’s no sex; sexy, yes, but there’s violence for sure. There are few painfully detailed scenes of torture and gore. And KC Montero excels as one of the sadistic villains.

2) Filipino martial arts. Maria isn’t a full-on martial arts film like The Raid or The Night Comes For Us. It’s an action movie with fights that features FMA (Filipino martial arts). Where have we seen that before? Have you heard of Jason Bourne? Yes, FMA is one of the techniques used in those Bourne movies. The more recent BuyBust also features FMA. What more? The movie also features bladed weapons such as karambit (a curved knife) and balisong (butterfly knife).

3) Impressive fight scenes. FMA and fight choreography alone doesn’t guarantee an engrossing action sequence. Put in a little dose of shaky cam and you ruin the whole thing. Good thing there are no shaky cams in Maria. (Hello, The Bourne Supremacy!) There are no 12 cuts every 4 seconds. (Fuck you, The Winter Soldier!) And there are few inventive fight sequence in the movie. There’s a bathroom fight between two femme fatales that would probably fit in No Other Woman; there’s a tense chase sequence in a public market; and, probably my favorite, the part where Maria attacks a warehouse that segues into a great hallway fight. And there’s a bloody shower scene after one of those bloody fights. But this particular scene’s not sexual, just sexy.

4) The one and only Ronnie Lazaro. I first saw Ronnie Lazaro in the telenovela Ezperanza (with Judy Ann Santos), where he played the evil stepfather. And when he did a 180-degree turn in another telenovela, Kay Tagal Kitang Hinintay, where he played the adoptive father of John Lloyd Cruz’s character, that’s when I said to myself (what a wonderful world!), this guy’s the shit. Turns out he’s already been in films like Oro Plata Mata and Boatman before. Anyways, he really needs no introduction. He is THE Ronnie Lazaro. And in Maria, he plays assassin, mentor, friend and fairy godmother. Yep, you read that right.

5) Cristine Reyes as Maria. Forget about comic book movies, forget about Captain Marvel, if you really want memorable portrayal of a strong female character. Alita? She’s OK, she kicks ass, but if you want something not limited by PG-13 rating, then you should definitely go see Cristine Reyes kick some butts. She excels in action as well as in the dramatic scenes. Aside from those kick ass fight scenes mentioned above, there’s a fun back and forth between Maria and Sir Greg (Ronnie Lazaro) in the movie’s few quiet moments.

Maria (2019)

Cristine Reyes goes for some good, old-fashioned revenge in ‘Maria’

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Seven years after that one final job, Maria (Cristine Reyes) now lives a quiet domestic life in an unnamed province. A nice big house, a loving husband, their cute little daughter, Cristine Reyes plays an ex-cartel assassin turned wife and mother, from killing people to cooking dinner.

Continue reading “Maria (2019)”

Training Day (2001)

Training Day: or How did your first day go?

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Holy s—Did I leave the stove on?

Training Day opens in early morn with LAPD officer Jake Hoyt preparing for his first day on a new assignment—he’s transferring to Rampart Division and will undergo evaluation under Detective Alonzo Harris, a bad-ass mofo cop played by Denzel Washington. After a meet-up in a cafe, the two drives around town as Alonzo shows Jake the ropes: Continue reading “Training Day (2001)”

Deadpool 2 Is The Super Duper $@%!#& Superhero Movie of the Year

13 Reasons Why Deadpool 2 Is The Super Duper $@%!#& Superhero Movie of the Year

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Not really a big comic book guy, but if you’d ask me who my favorite comic book characters are, top five would be, in no particular order: Spider-Man, Hulk, Punisher, Cable and Deadpool. That’s right, one from MCU’s Avengers team but not Iron Man, Thor or Cap and none from Fox’s X-Men. Wolverine? I like Wolverine, but not Hugh Jackman’s Polverine. Continue reading “Deadpool 2 Is The Super Duper $@%!#& Superhero Movie of the Year”

BuyBust (2018)

‘Goyo’ was the worst, ’til I saw ‘BuyBust’

Thought ‘Goyo’ was already the worst well-received movie of the year. But after watching Erik Matti’s latest, I guess we now have a winner. BuyBust/Anne Curtis rips Goyo/Paulo Avelino’s pretty face to shreds. Gloriously. Imagine that. Would probably make a good movie.

Save for one action sequence fueled by a punk rock song, where Anne Curtis tries to ward off the angry wives and mistresses of Gracia Ni Maria using an aluminum palanggana while Brandon Vera does the same with an umbrella, Erik Matti’s BuyBust is just endless gunfights and hand to hand combat that range from sloppy to well-executed, some rapid fire editing, some shaky cam, some unsustained tension, plenty of senseless violence (i.e., one poor lady got her head cut off), and lots of dead cops, henchmen, and poor civilians. Continue reading “BuyBust (2018)”

Dredd Is A Punk-Rock Middle Finger To Ponderous Comic Book Movies

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It’s a fucked-up world. And Mega-City One is a fucked-up place full of fucked-up criminals. And the Hall of Justice is the last bastion of order and maybe—peace. Or so they thought. This is the world where Judges exist, where Judge Dredd exists, where Judges roam the street and play judge, jury, and executioner. Continue reading “Dredd Is A Punk-Rock Middle Finger To Ponderous Comic Book Movies”

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Is A Perfectly Executed Action-RPG

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Right after the opening salvo of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which we find Captain America and Agent Romanoff displaying their super-awesome fighting skills against a group of mercenaries in a SHIELD vessel, I wasn’t sure if I was in a movie house or if I just watched a perfectly executed tactical/brawler/action-RPG. Continue reading “Captain America: The Winter Soldier Is A Perfectly Executed Action-RPG”

Free Fire (2016)

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There are brief moments within its 90-minute running time, where Free Fire succumbs to tedium, which slowly takes you out of the movie while you wait for something to happen. Then it goes back to business, then slows down again. For the most part, the movie alternates between bang and silence, hit and miss, limp and roll, dash and crawl, funny dialogue and stupor. Continue reading “Free Fire (2016)”

Kick-Ass (2010)

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With great firepower comes great kick-ass finale

Damon Macready (Nicholas Cage) was a good cop out to get NY kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)—who in turn framed him for drugs and got him incarcerated. Macready lost everything while in prison, save for his little girl—thanks to his buddy Sgt. Marcus Williams (who showed up in the movie for a few minutes just to read Macready’s first graphic novel and reveal what this movie is all about: Macready’s revenge). Continue reading “Kick-Ass (2010)”

Blind Fury (1989)

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The idea seems ludicrous enough—that of importing Zatoichi to Hollywood and have a blind man fight gunmen with a sword. Thought it would be no different than those clumsy and unintentionally funny American Ninja movies I liked as a kid. So I gave Blind Fury a pass one time it was airing on cable. Turns out, it’s by Philip Noyce, the guy responsible for no-nonsense thrillers such as Clear and Present Danger, Salt and, uhm…Sliver. And with Rutger Hauer as the blind sword-wielding war veteran, giving it a try the second time was not so bad an idea. Blind Fury doesn’t take itself too seriously. I mean, there’s one sequence where Hauer’s character drives a car like he isn’t blind. The action scenes were typically slower than the average action flicks of today, but at least they weren’t confusing or over-edited beyond recognition. The movie was able to throw in a few laughs as well: during a sword-fight, Hauer touches the face of his opponent (Sho Kosugi) and exclaimed, “Ha, Japanese!” And it has some surprisingly poignant moments too. It’s hardly a great action movie; but for something borne out of seemingly silly idea, it’s surprisingly well executed and fairly entertaining.

The Punisher (2004)

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There are a few things in The Punisher that I wish were part of a totally different movie. The movie’s white on black title sequence and score was perfectly fitting. Thomas Jane, who did look the part, was almost perfect as Frank Castle; only ruined by the movie’s hackneyed script, inconsistent tone and ho-hum set pieces. There’s the guitar playing assassin named Harry Heck (who turns out to be a really slow shooter) and the car chase and fight sequence that started in the diner which had glimpse of suspense that’s quite elusive for the rest of the film. The big fight with Russian that ended in the kitchen, could have been a riot if the parts where his neighbors lip-sync and dance to an opera song had been cut. Frank Castle getting beaten to a pulp by a bigger opponent was already funny enough. And of course, Rebecca Romijn.

Of course, all of the above weren’t enough to save the movie. As a supposedly throwback to the gritty crime-action movies of the ’70s, The Punisher‘s got the look and feel partially right, but doesn’t have the weight to begin with. In the comics, the mob killed Frank Castle and his family because they witnessed a hit. It was senseless violence; they were just collateral damage. In the movie, it isn’t like that, The Saints are just settling the score. Thomas Jane is good as Punisher, too bad the movie his in, sucks.

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Top 10 Superhero Movies

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Spider-Man 2 (2004). In the comics, later in the story, it is revealed that Aunt May knew all along that Peter is Spider-Man. That she secretly knew his secret. That this is hinted at in the movie, is one of those little things that made this adaptation great. That Aunt May is given her own kick-ass moment, teaming up with Spidey to beat Doc Ock, is another. Of course, there’s the great train sequence, the bank heist, Doc Ock’s Evil Dead moment, and don’t forget, J.K. Simmons as the blustering  J. Jonah Jameson.

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008). This is one visually stunning film. The troll market is a hoot. The fate of the last forest god is both tragic and beautiful. On top of that, the film’s main conflict isn’t just simplistic good vs. evil—Prince Nuada has good reasons to break the truce. Remember the part where they drink beer and sing along to Barry Manilow? Yeah, this movie’s quite funny too.

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Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014). It’s a good mix of action, comedy and drama—not over serious but not just mindless fun either. From the opening song and dance number down to the other song and dance numbers before and mid-credits, this movie about a band of misfits saving the world is a winner! And probably the danciest superhero movie of all. The best MCU movie? Yes—beats The Avengers by a hair and way way better than Civil War.

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Batman Returns (1992). Tim Burton isn’t much about inventive fight scenes than he is about texture, the elaborate Gothic sets, the quirky and oftentimes grotesque characters. What it does lack in action, it makes up with style and wit (i.e., Penguin’s weaponized umbrella, Selina Kyle’s taser-kiss). Add to that the deliciously insane script and the great cast—Danny De Vito, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfieffer—and you got the best adaptation of the Caped Crusader’s plight.

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Spider-Man (2002). Compared to more recent movies, this may seem a little too straightforward now—more like a comic book primer, a one-shot. But that’s only because it is the prototype, which others would later try to improve on. Some movies upped the action (Kick-Ass), some, the comedy (Deadpool) but Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, where Peter Parker learns that “with great power comes great responsibility”, remains the all around better origin movie.

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The Avengers (2012). After two Hulk movies that were just okay, here’s that Hulk movie we all really need. I remember not being so excited about this before it came out. That all the movies that lead to this movie were just okay—the talky Iron Man sequel, Cap’s WWII origin and Thor‘s uneventful Asgard—was enough for me to lower my expectations. Thus, seeing the Earth’s mightiest in one awesome movie—thanks to Joss Whedon—was such a huge marvelous surprise.

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Deadpool (2016). Merc with a Mouth’s origin story is part Spider-Man redux, part corrective to the atrocious Wolverine origin and the closest a comic-book movie comes to approximating Monty Python and the Holy Grail-type of craziness (though it’s not even close). Green Lantern is quite good as Deadpool and he’s got Serenity‘s feisty muse as his girl next door.

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Kick-Ass (2010). Also known as Big Daddy’s Revenge (With A Little Help From Kick-Ass). Because. It’s all about revenge. And Matthew Vaughn’s stylish action sequence. Never mind the premise; or the first half; or Dave Lizewski’s thought balloons about being a superhero. You’ll forget about them anyway, once you see Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) take on Big Boss Frank D’Amico in a brutal hand-to-hand combat in the movie’s kick-ass finale.

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Super (2010). The genre deconstruction that Kick-Ass hardly was—James Gunn’s pre-MCU superhero black comedy features the pipe-wrench wielding vigilante who calls himself The Crimson Bolt and his far more unhinged side-kick Boltie. It’s dark, funny and gritty. Tired of the family-friendly and passable entertainment from Disney? Or the trying hard to be dark and edgy DC movies? This one’s for you.

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Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (2001). I was one movie short of making this a top ten list. So I thought of another movie which I really like. Then, I remembered this—Kevin Smith’s movie about Jay and Silent Bob going to Hollywood to stop the adaptation of Bluntman and Chronic into the big screen. It’s trashy and amateurish, which is typical of Smith’s movies. A must-see if you’re a fan of Smith’s.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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Captain America: Civil War finds the Earth’s mightiest heroes split in two. One led by Captain America and the other headed by Iron Man—two evenly matched teams going head-to-head in a mid-movie battle seemingly inspired by the opening sequence of the X-Men cartoons from the ‘90s. While Iron Man got Spider-Man, Captain America’s team is the more exciting one, with Wanda, Hawkeye and Ant-Man on his side. Still, this doesn’t make it significantly more interesting than the other similarly themed summer flick from DC, especially when most of the superheroes left to team up with either Cap or Tony, are the predictably dull side characters in the Marvel Universe—War Machine, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Vision and a likewise banal newcomer in Black Panther.

I thought we should at least have Nick Fury in the middle, make him give long Tarantino-esque monologues that would illuminate why Cap and Tony were on different sides. (Looks like Tony is just jealous because Cap’s got a new boyfriend and he’s got no one else since Pepper left him.) Also, they could have given Agent 13 more screen presence this time, because honestly, they couldn’t make Black Widow any more alluring and her signature takedown gets tiring already. Another thing, the camera tends to get too shaky during her fight scenes—actually, most of the fight scenes, not just those with Black Widow.

Captain America: Civil War starts with The Avengers foiling a terrorist attack somewhere in Africa. They were able to retrieve the biological weapon from the terrorists, but not without collateral damage—something they might have avoided, if only Vision wasn’t so busy in the headquarters kitchen. So Tony Stark has to do a Bruce Wayne this time; taking fall for the death of innocent people when they tried to save the world from Ultron. Captain America, on the other hand, just can’t afford to lose Bucky for the third time, even if his disagreement with Stark could lead to Civil War.

Of course, it didn’t. No Civil War, just a smaller version of Mark Millar’s serial, which has twelve superheroes fighting each other in Leipzig/Halle Airport. With Hawkeye just being funny, delivering one-liners in between punches; Ant-Man getting inside Iron Man’s suit, then later turning into Giant-Man; and Spider-Man throwing banters while webbing up Falcon, sparring with Cap, and swinging around Giant-Man. Then, there’s Elizabeth Olsen, who gives Wanda Maximoff the vulnerability—both emotional and physical—that’s kind of rare in this type of movie. Olsen’s Wanda is both fragile and fierce, like a kitten with special powers, caught in the middle of a slugfest.

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Said airport scuffle is easily the best part of this movie. But since it happens somewhere in the middle, right before the “more” important events are about to unfold, it makes the last third of the movie drag, not just a bit. And I couldn’t even care less, especially after Wanda, Ant-Man and Spidey left off the screen. And I think, it asks too much of its audience when they killed Rhodes. Almost. It’s not like he (almost) died trying to save people. And both teams seem to be having a fun pick-up match just right before that, with Spider-Man referencing Star Wars and Ant-Man asking for orange slices (probably to nurse a massive headache) after he gets knocked down. Unlike the death scene in Joss Whedon’s Age of Ultron, the tone here is just, off.

At long last, the final fight between Cap and Iron Man boils down to Tony doing another Bruce Wayne—as he turns vengeful for the death of his parents. The fight gets a bit clearer near the end—lesser camera movements, lesser cutting but in the same gloomy blue-grayish tone (would have been nice to see Cap’s bright costume contrasting nicely with Iron Man’s metallic gold and red). And in case you forgot, in the pure Marvel tradition of having boring half-villains, this movie also got one: Baron Zemo, who gets to carry out his very complicated plan, just because the plot needs him to.

Again, that airport scene is probably the coolest thing ever…or maybe, just until the next Marvel movie comes.

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John Wick (2014)

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There are no ad campaigns out there against animal cruelty, that would do better than John Wick, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch’s pulpy noir action film about a retired assassin, who’d let hell break loose on a Russian mob, just because the boss’ son killed his dog and stole his 1969 Mustang. But it’s primarily because they killed his dog – you know, because a car is just a car, even if it’s a Mustang. Continue reading “John Wick (2014)”