Martial Arts

OMG! Action-packed Commando 2 opens on Friday, March 3, in Montreal!

Vidyut Jammwal as Captain Karanvir Singh Dogra in the film Commando 2: The Black Money Trail

Vidyut Jammwal as Captain Karanvir Singh Dogra in the film Commando 2: The Black Money Trail

In the summer of 2013, Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival showed an Indian action film called Commando. Fantasia fans loved it. (Me, too!)

The headline for my Montreal Gazette blog post was handed to me on a silver platter when I heard a (female) audience member exclaim “That’s the sexiest man I’ve seen in my life!” She was referring to the star of Commando, Vidyut Jammwal.

Jammwal plays a super-skilled, extremely fit Indian soldier who is captured and brutally tortured by another state, in some faraway outpost. Of course, he escapes his tormentors. I wrote that his “skills include, but are certainly not limited to: punching, kicking, stabbing, setting traps, swinging on vines, running up walls (or people) leaping off rooftops, cliffs and bridges, over cars or through the windows of their open doors, etc., etc.”

“He gives good glare, where the bad guys are concerned, but is also ready with great smouldering looks, when the heroine (Pooja Chopra) needs one. Multi-talented!”

The film’s subhead “A One Man Army,” was an understatement, if anything.

If ever a film was crying out for a sequel, it was Commando. And now. . .  it’s almost here! Commando 2: The Black Money Trail,  opens in Montreal (and many other places, I’m sure!) on Friday, March 3, 2017. Whoohoo! The film is about money-laundering on a massive scale, along with a double kidnapping in Malaysia.

Vidyut Jammwal in the action film Commando 2.

Vidyut Jammwal in the action film Commando 2.

Take a look at the exceptional action choreography in the trailer below. (More than 16 MILLION people have already watched it since January 23, 2017!) The action is even more impressive than what we saw in the first film. The leaps, spins, the tumbles! Good grief! How does Jammwal slip through that tiny window? He has been studying Kalaripayattu, a martial art from the Indian state of Kerala since he was three years old. That probably helps!

In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Jammwal said “Commando 2 will be the biggest action film in recent times.” “We created a new genre of action, where no cables and wires were used. It will be a visual spectacle.” I believe it! I’m also thinking, maybe it’s time to redefine the concept of a “chick flick.” We don’t necessarily need female bonding, singalongs, weddings, alcohol, flowers, fancy food or clothes, you know?

I usually avoid opening weekends, because the films often sell out and audiences can be too unruly, but in this instance. . .I don’t think I’ll have the patience to wait five whole days until (my unofficial name for it) “Cheapo Tuesday.”

Commando 2: The Black Money Trail, written by Ritesh Shah, directed by Deven Bhojani, starring Vidyut Jammwal, Adah Sharma, Freddy Daruwala, Thakur Anoop Singh, Esha Gupta, Adil Hussain, Suhail Nayyar.


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Fantasia 2015 Review: The Arti: The Adventure Begins

The Arti-C, centre, a wood-and-metal mechanical man, is the title character of The Arti: The Adventure Begins, an animated film from Taiwan that's being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival. On the left is Mo, on the right is his sister Tong. The Arti-C was invented by their late father.

The Arti-C, centre, a wood-and-metal mechanical man, is the title character of The Arti: The Adventure Begins, an animated film from Taiwan that’s being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival. On the left is Mo, on the right is his sister Tong. The Arti-C was invented by their late father.

Martial-arts fighters with lightning moves, the clang of swords, the whoosh of garments, special effects and. . . puppets?

Does that ring a bell? Fantasia International Film Festival veterans might remember a wonderful gem from Taiwan called The Legend of the Sacred Stone. For me, it was one of the most impressive films at Fantasia in 2000. Well, the organization behind that film, the Huang family’s Pili Puppetry, is back at Fantasia with The Arti: The Adventure Begins. (奇人密碼-古羅布之謎)

The Arti of the title is actually Arti-C, a wood and metal mechanical man with movable eyebrows and Astroboy ankles. He is like a sibling and a servant for brother-sister orphans Zhang Mo and Zhang Tong, and he’s controlled by a sort of wearable console on Mo’s arm.

Zhang Mo wears the controls for wood-and-metal mechanical man The Arti-C on his left arm.

Zhang Mo wears the controls for wood-and-metal mechanical man The Arti-C on his left arm.

The film is set in ancient China and contains many familiar themes, in addition to the orphan one. For example: being outcasts/misunderstood while carrying on a father’s work, a desire to restore the family honour and that father’s reputation, going on an adventure to unfamiliar and dangerous lands. The younger sister, Tong, is the “feisty female character” who is quite handy with weapons herself. Mo looks a bit like a manga character, with his hair falling fashionably in his face.

The Arti-C runs on a mysterious power called The Origin, which seems to be petering out. So Mo, Tong and the Arti-C go searching for The Origin’s source. While they are still at the local market, which seems like quite a multinational sort of place, a red-haired woman named Kameedia just blatantly invites herself along on their adventure.

Mechanical musicians in The Arti: The Adventure Begins, an animated film from Taiwan thats on the program of the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Mechanical musicians in The Arti: The Adventure Begins, an animated film from Taiwan thats on the program of the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival.

In the course of that adventure, they will cross a desert, ride giants camels and insects, get caught in a sandstorm, visit the luxurious palace of the King of Loulan, enter the Arti-C in a martial-arts tournament against many impressive foes, and meet several scary creatures, human and otherwise.

There’s an environmental message, and a “why can’t we all get along” one, too. Before I read any background material about the film, I could tell that Avatar was one of its inspirations.

Stick around when the credits start to roll and you’ll see the creation of the puppets, the sets (some with green-screen backdrops), scenes being shot, and some of the many, many people involved in making the film. The Arti: The Adventure Begins seems to indicate the possibilities of sequels if this first film is popular enough.

The elaborate details of The Arti: The Adventure Begins are quite amazing. Here is a close-up look at a sword.

The elaborate details of The Arti: The Adventure Begins are quite amazing. Here is a close-up look at a sword.

BTW and FYI: I was curious about the history of mechanical men. While researching that, I came across an interesting article on a Stanford University web site. The title is Man-machine and Artificial Intelligence and it’s written by Bruce Mazlish. It’s adapted from Mazlish’s own book, The Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-evolution of Humans and Machines, Yale University Press, 1993.

Here’s a paragraph from that article: “The wealth of mechanical toys cited in ancient China is awesome. In addition to the flying machine mentioned earlier, mechanized doves and angels, fish, and dragons abounded; automated cup-bearers and wine-pourers were prominent; and hydraulically-moved boats, carrying figures of singing girls, animals, and men in motion are said to have amused the emperors. Of particular interest are the chariots that moved of themselves-auto-mobiles-attributed by legend to the scientist Mo Ti in the fourth century BC. Were they actually wheelbarrows, or “pedicarts”? A mechanical man of jade is reported, as well as all kinds of wooden dolls, gold Buddhist statues, and puppet orchestras.”

Is the Mo Ti mentioned here the same Mo of the film? Maybe not, but maybe the name was inspired by him?

The Arti: The Adventure Begins, will be shown once, on Sunday, July 19, 2015, at 13:00 (1 p.m.) in the Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., in downtown Montreal. The monsters aren’t so scary that you couldn’t take your children!

The Arti: The Adventure Begins
Sci-Fi / Fantasy/ Animation, Taiwan, 2015,102 min, DCP, Mandarin, with English subtitles
Director: Huang Wen Chang
Screenplay: Huang Liang Hsun
Voice cast: Huang Wen Tze, Ricky Hsiao, A-Lin
Company: Golden Network

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com/2015/

Fantasia film festival menu makes me hungry for the full, tasty feast

Mitch Davis, one of the general directors of the Fantasia International Film Festival, in his usual mood, which is very animated and highly enthusiastic! Davis has been known to knock over plants and other such stage props, which is probably one reason why there aren't any plants on that stage. Photo by Liz Ferguson

Mitch Davis, one of the general directors of the Fantasia International Film Festival, in his usual mood, which is very animated and highly enthusiastic! Davis has been known to knock over plants and other such stage props, which is probably one reason why there aren’t any plants on that stage. Photo by Liz Ferguson

On Tuesday, July 7, 2015, more than 200 people came to Cinéma de Sève at Concordia University to get the latest lowdown on the films, guests, venues and assorted events that make up the 19th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival.

The festival will show comedies, dramas, horror, thrillers, action films, animated films and documentaries. There will be spirits, vampires, martial artists, good cops and bad, adorable characters and despicable ones.

There were enthusiastic speeches from the usual suspects, and some trailers, too. I appreciate those trailers immensely – a description from someone who likes a film is nice, but there’s nothing like seeing for yourself!

I saw many intriguing snippets; some of the Japanese films look really quirky, and I mean that in a GOOD way! And I want to see most, probably all, of the 12 Korean films that will be shown at the fest.

Some films are probably too gory for me, because I’m a big scaredy-cat, but that’s OK, I know that others like them. It’s difficult enough to see all the films that I want to see, so being able to rule some out is almost a blessing.
This year, the festival will show 135 feature films from 36 countries; obviously only a few could be mentioned at the press conference. That’s where the Fantasia catalogue and/or web site come in. I do like having a printed catalogue and a printed schedule, but I also appreciate the Fantasia International Film Festival web site, where I can find films by name, country, genre, or director. That’s great for those who want to read about all the documentaries or all the films from a particular country.

In venue news, there will be outdoor screenings on Concordia grounds; the McCord Museum will show films suitable for children (Fantasia shows more of those than you might think!); some films will be shown in the lovely auditorium of the Grand Bibliothèque, near the Berri-UQAM métro.

Among the revelations – Fantasia will show Roar, a rarely-seen film from 1981 that’s been given a new lease on life through Drafthouse Films. I’ve read many articles about it in the past few months, so I’m really eager to see it.

Roar features more than 150 wild cats who were being kept as pets by writer/director Noah Marshall and his family. That family included actressTippi Hedren (from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds) her daughter, actress Melanie Griffith, and two sons. They all act in the film. From what I’ve read, they were lucky to come out of the experience alive. Few people escaped unmauled, or unscratched, though. The film is being marketed with a catchphrase along the lines of: “No animals were harmed in the making of this film, but 70 people were.” Cinematographer Jan de Bont had his scalp torn off, and it took 120 stitches to sew it back onto his head.

Fantasia will also show Haemoo, a Korean film based on a tragic, real-life life incident. Kim Yun-seok is the star, it was produced and co-written by Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host, Memories of Murder, etc., etc), and directed by Shim Sung-bo, who was one of Bong’s co-writers for Memories of Murder.

Maybe this was announced earlier and I didn’t see it, but Kevin Bacon will come to present the film, Cop Car. Bacon plays a very bad sheriff hot on the trail of two young boys who have stolen his cruiser. There will be a Q&A after the film, and Mitch Davis encouraged everyone to come and ask Bacon lots of questions. He was chortling, in an infectious way, at the possibilities.

For me, the Fantasia press conference, and the festival itself, is like an ideal version of a high-school reunion – fun, friendly, all smiles, no bullies.

There is so much to say about the Fantasia International Film Festival; I guess the best thing is to write several posts, and not to go on and on with this one!

But I would like to say “thank you” to Fantasia organizers for holding their press conference in a place that had enough seats for the invitees. I wish that every organization would do that! Standing up for more than one hour, while also trying to take notes – it isn’t fun at all!

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14 to Aug. 4, 2015.
Tickets can be bought online from Admission and at the box office. Many films sell out amazingly quickly and many will only be shown once, so if something sounds good to you, avoid disappointment and buy tickets sooner rather than later.