Archive for the Jeeja Yanin Category

What happened to Generation Next?!

Posted in Amy Johnston, Gina Carano, Jeeja Yanin, Ziyi Zhang with tags , on May 5, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Michelle Yeoh has been the standard-bearer for successful female martial arts heroes for decades, followed closely by the likes of Cynthia Rothrock and names like the original hero Angela Mao, Yukari Oshima, Moon Lee, and Cynthia Khan. Year passed, and each one faded into cinema memories as time went on. With the exception of the Wuxia films, there was a noticeable dearth of female action films.

But then things began to change. We were introduced to a new crop of potential action stars: Stateside MMA fighter Gina Carano came out with her first film, Haywire, which was a modestly successful film, and she seemed to be the one to pick up the American mantle left by Ms. Rothrock. Overseas, renewed hope continued in the form of Jeeja Yanin in Chocolate, and Veronica NGO in The Rebel and Clash. Not to miss out we also had Zhang Ziyi making her mark in films like the House of Flying Daggers and The GrandMaster. Toss in Ronda Rousey making her debut in both a Fast and Furious film as well as The Expendables 3 and one would think that female martial arts action cinema would be in good hands.

Until it wasn’t.

Carano, as of this writing, did well with Deadpool but her acting is hampering her. Jeeja Yanin is suffering from two important things: her film choices and the absence of the great Panna Rittikrai as her fight choreographer. Zhang Ziyi was the best thing about The Grandmaster, but it was also Tony Leung’s star vehicle rather than hers. I’m not sure what became of Veronica Ngo, and Ronda Rousey, well, it’s hard to say.

So where do we go from here? Cinema seems to be taking care of it…to a point. Scarlett Johansson had Ghost In The Shell (not a very good film) and we have Wonder Woman coming out soon, as well as Atomic Blonde with Charlize Theron, so women are progressing in action cinema to being more than a damsel in distress. But where are the martial arts stars at? Could Ni Ni pull off being an action badass in Enter The Warrior’s Gate? How about stunt woman Amy Johnston in her film debut Lady Bloodfight? Is she ready to take the next step? Charisma and charm are good, but martial arts skills need to be on point as well. Who else is out there in the world of female ass kickers ready to step up to the plate? We have plenty of male martial arts stars. But we need something more. We need kickass women. Action cinema needs kickass women.

We’re still waiting.

And that’s the problem.

Enter the Warriors Gate is now in theaters, VOD and Digital HD.

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Review: The Protector 2 (2013)

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marrese Crump, Panna Rittikrai, Tony Jaa with tags , , on March 11, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Tony Jaa, Jeeja Yanin, Pechtai Wongkamlao, Marrese Crump, RZA, Patrick Kazu Tang, Jawed Al Berni, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Theerada Kittisiriprasert

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Pratchya Pinkaew

It’s been well documented through various sources concerning the meltdown Tony Jaa had that occurred during the making of Ong Bak 2 and 3, and his subsequent break from filmmaking. After a time Tony Jaa returned to filmmaking with the announcement of The Protector 2, and would be reunited with his Ong Bak crew and joined by Jeeja Yanin, in a film that once again finds a group of bad guys who haven’t learned not to mess with Jaa’s elephant. A can’t-miss film, right?

Wrong. My worst fear for Tony Jaa became true.

We once again join elephant owner Kham (Jaa) who lives in a small village and takes care of Khorn, now an adult elephant. One day Kham gets a visit from a local elephant wrangler named Suchart who wants to purchase Khorn, but of course Kham refuses the money (did Suchart not know how many asses Kham had to kick to get Khorn back?!), so of course he has to kidnap Khorn, but the reason why isn’t as black and white as believed, as Kham goes after Suchart, and upon breaking into his home Kham finds that Suchart is already dead. Kham gets attacked by his two young daughters who blame him for his death, Ping Ping (Yanin) and Sue Sue (Kittisiriprasert),  and soon Kham finds himself on the run, being chased by his old friend Mark (Wongkamlao), now in Thailand on loan to Interpol, the two daughters, and men hired by gun runner LC (RZA) who have taken Khorn to bring about the assassination of the leaders of East and West Katana, who have gathered in Thailand for peace talks. Kham must evade the police, and find a way for Mark, Sue Sue and Ping Ping to believe in his innocence in time to stop LC and his goons from using a bomb-strapped Khorn to commit an action that will continue a war…

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The story here is utterly ridiculous in how Kham gets involved, and the bad guy LC makes strange decisions, and what little there is in a plot is further hampered by characters whose stories ultimately go nowhere. Jaa returns as Kham, and while he still kicks ass, there is something missing in the performance to make me care. It doesn’t get any better with LC, and the fact that the RZA is playing him, and his acting is far worse than Jaa’s, continue to bring the film down. I wish that Jeeja Yanin would be a saving grace, but she’s not in the film enough to be. I have to say that her part is the most disappointing of all. This film should have presented her and Jaa in much the same way that Supercop presented Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh, but here Yanin is a young woman whose martial arts skills are muted, and she gets nothing but beaten up the entire film, even by flunkies. Where is the girl from Raging Phoenix and Chocolate?  Yes, she is playing a different character, but using Michelle Yeoh as an example, she brought her history with her to Supercop as a badass, and Chan never had to “save” her (for the most part), but here Yanin needs Jaa to save her at every turn. They are never equals. There are only two actors here worthy of note. Petchai Wongkamlao is great in his return as Sergeant Mark, even if he isn’t as funny as the first film. He brings better acting to every scene he’s in, and he has to, as he has to prop up every scene with Jaa, and is able to do so. The other person I want to mention is Marrese Crump as Number 2. He brings a genuine imposing menace, and in truth he should have played LC.

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The fights and stunts here are really disappointing, save for two fights. The stunts are more over the top, but with that brings CGI effects and wirework, two things the first film didn’t have. I have an expectation—and I think many of you do too— of seeing Jaa effects-free, and was disappointed to see this film effects-filled. The motorcycle chase/fights are laughable in their impossibility, and for the first time in a Jaa film I constantly wondered if what I saw was real. Let’s not even get into the fight where he once again sets his feet on fire. Only this time the fire is computer-generated. Even the fight choreography of the late Panna Rittikrai was lacking of originality and energy.

The one lone bright spot is the two fights between Tony Jaa and Marrese Crump. Crump is positioned to be a star here (Okay, Marvel Studios, you have your new Blade! Get on that!) and the fight is great between the two men. Of course, this is nearly wiped out by the finale, which involves Jaa fighting RZA, whom I am sick and tired of seeing playing a martial artist when he isn’t one.

At the start of this review I stated that my worst fear for Tony Jaa came true. That fear was that during his sabbatical from film the world of martial arts film moved on without him. While he was gone The Raid raised the bar and became the new gold standard,  Jackie Chan got some of his mojo back, Scott Adkins continued to kick ass, and Donnie Yen was rocking along as well, and even Jeeja Yanin had some hits.

Can Jaa get his mojo back? I’m not sure. The next few years will tell the tale of whether he’s still the successor to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, or if he’s simply a placeholder.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

A lackluster sequel with poor storytelling and laughable characters. And far too much CGI for a Tony Jaa movie. So disappointing.

Review: Jakkalan (aka This Girl is Badass!) (2011)

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Panna Rittikrai with tags , , on November 11, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Jeeja Yanin, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Akom Preedakul

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Petchtai Wongkamlao

Jeeja Yanin has been hailed by many as the next Michelle Yeoh, and she may yet be. Chocolate was fantastic, and Raging Phoenix wasn’t nearly as good, but had some good fights. Now Jeeja returns with an action comedy in  Jakkalan, and I must say this wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Jeeja stars as Jakkalan, a bicycle messenger who lives with her Uncle, an old man who owns a legit video rental store, and pines after a woman who lives in his neighborhood by helping her and her daughter for reasons to be revealed later. Jakkalan also has a childhood friend who has a crush on her, but Jakkalan has a crush on a musician who lives in her neighborhood. Of course, these are small stories built around another, which is Jakkalan’s uncaring attitude about who she delivers what to, and in this case she delivers a briefcase of cocaine to a group of local dealers, both of whom believes that the other is trying to screw them over. Jakkalan finds herself smack dab in the middle, trying to avoid getting killed while doing her job, trying to get the boy next door, and make her strange boss happy.

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As a story, Jakkalan is more of an action film than anything else. I think Jeeja does an okay job with it, but there isn’t much to her character, unlike Chocolate and Raging Phoenix. She actually isn’t a likable character, basically a teenager full of herself. Faring much better is her Uncle, and Petchai plays him as a world weary man who hides a terrible secret that’s never really resolved. I think there was a much better film in his story than Jakkalan’s. I’m not that familiar with Thai comedy, but most of it never really worked for me. The baddies were trying to be these Tarantino-odd like guys, but they came off really lame.

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The fight scenes were really disappointing. I expect so much more from Rittikrai, and it really felt by-the-numbers here, rather than trying to push his own envelope. That could be due to the lighter tone of the film compared to many of his others, but the best fight was between Jakkalan and the assassin in the school-girl out fit. They have two bouts, and both are really good. Outside of that, the stuntmen did a good job, but this film felt more like 90’s Jackie Chan than 80’s, if you get my meaning. I wasn’t impressed with the fights in this film and expected so much more from both Yanin and Rittikrai.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Jakkalan is a disappointing comedy featuring great talents wasted in Jeeja Yanin and Panna Rittikrai. The tone of the film veers wildly all over the place. I’d suggest watching Chocolate again while waiting for Chocolate 2 and The Protector 2.

The Protector 2 has a new trailer! Featuring Tony Jaa and Marrese Crump!

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marrese Crump, Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew, RZA, Tony Jaa on August 29, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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I was already pumped for this film, and I’ve heard from some people who saw the first trailer that there was too much CGI. There was some, but I trust Panna Rittikrai to pull off some amazing non-CGI fights, and that’s the message this trailer looks to deliver here.  The CGI is probably simply an enhancement for the 3D aspect of the film. I trust the filmmakers, so I have faith there won’t be too much of it. Besides,  with Jeeja Yanin, Dan Chupong, and Patrick Kazu Tang aboard, I doubt this will be anything less than awesome. Kinda reminds me of the Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao/Sammo Hung classics.

So watch the trailer below and sound off in the comments (as if I have to ask you to watch!)

 

DAMN RIGHT! The Teaser for Tom Yum Goong 2 (The Protector 2) is live!!

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marrese Crump, Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew, Tony Jaa with tags on July 26, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

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Yes, Yes, Yes. Simply watch. Just watch. Tony Jaa is back, people! Sound off in the comments and tell me what you think!

Review: Raging Phoenix (2009)

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Panna Rittikrai on October 16, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jeeja Yanin, Kazu Tang, Marc Hoang, Roongtawan Jindasing

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Rashane Limtrakul

You just gotta love Panna Rittikrai. He’s one fight choreographer who is never happy with repeating himself. After the success of Chocolate no one would blame him for going back into his old bag of tricks. Panna has a really big bag, and he’s always adding more to it. For Jeeja’s second film he decided to pull off a mixture of Muay Thai and Drunken Boxing also mixed with…breakdancing! How does it come off? Pretty good, but fades as the film goes on.

Raging Phoenix is about Deu (Yanin) a reckless rocker girl who has just been kicked out of her band, and doesn’t take it too well because she has abandonment issues. She gets complete drunk and finds herself stumbling into a covered parking garage, where a group called the Jaguars attempt to kidnap her, but she is saved by Sanim (Tang) a mysterious dude who runs with three other men, all of whom have lost girlfriends and sisters to the Jaguars, who are kidnapping women for a James Bond-style plot to be revealed later. Sanim introduces her to the gang, and for whatever reason teaches her their fighting style, but she soon uses it to get into trouble, and before long the entire gang find themselves face to face with the Jaguars, who want that whole group dead…

Jeeja Yanin did a great job with Chocolate, and she does here as well, even though I didn’t feel that she was very comfortable with the drunken boxing. She does a good acting job and shows that she has a good bit of range, but in her fight sequences, at least when she’s using the drunken-style breakdancing, it seems a bit…forced. Not so for Kazu Tang, who gives a great performance as the tragic Sanim, and truthfully his fight scenes are much better, at least in my humble opinion, than Jeeja’s. He looks much more fluid and natural with the break-dancing, so much so that he practically steals the film away from Jeeja. The other actors were decent but forgettable, and the main villains weren’t memorable at all except for Jaguar Tokyo (Huang) who brings a lot of skill and menace to a small role. Roongtawan Jindasing, the woman who played the main baddie, did a good job as well, especially in her final fights with Tang and Yanin. The story is pretty good, with the exception of a few leaps of logic, like when some of the gang decide to teach Deu a lesson, which involves nearly killing her and putting her in traction for months. Also, did the bad guys really warrant a lair on par with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? I mean, really?

The fight choreography is a mixed bag the further the film goes. The first fight in an abandoned arena was good, but it only featured Tang, who did an excellent job fighting thugs who were on metal bladed stilts. The second fight that introduces the rest of the gang was also well done, and the training scenes were quite a bit of fun, but Yanin’s first fight wasn’t as good as it could have been. The choreography itself was good, but it didn’t really seem to fit her. The fights toward the end of the film stop of the B-Boy stuff at least in regards to Yanin and she does a great job here, especially her fight with the two main henchmen. Like I said, I love that Panna tries to extend himself, but it doesn’t work as well as maybe it should. The good news is that Panna is always experimenting with new ways choreograph a fight, and no matter what, at least it’s always fun to watch.

Raging Phoenix is a good sophomore effort by Yanin, who has shown that she’s a genuine star whose future continues to shine bright. Kazu Tang is able to elevate the film even further as the possible-but-not-quite love interest.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Panna experiments with his style and comes away with a mixed bag depending on who was doing it. Kazu Tang and the B-Boys did well with it, but Jeeja Yanin less so until the last two fights.

STUNTWORK: (9) The stuntmen really did a good job here. Their reactions were really well done, especially for the frentic style of fighting they had to deal with.

STAR POWER (8) Yanin shows that Chocolate was no fluke, and Kazu Tang really needs to get a film of his own. He’s got the looks and the skills to be a star in his own right.

FINAL GRADE: (8) A good film that makes the supporting cast members look better than its star until the end of the film, but when the time comes Jeeja Yanin is more than up to the task. Oh yeah, the B-boy music is strangely addicting.