Archive for the Prachya Pinkaew Category

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!)

 

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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

protector 2

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

Review: Chocolate (2008)

Posted in Jeeja Yanin, Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew, Reviews with tags , , on April 18, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jeeja Yanin, Hiroshi Abe, Pongpat Wachirabunjong, Ammara Siripong

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Prachya Pinkaew

God bless Panna Rittikrai, for wanting to grab the no-holds-barred stunt work that hasn’t been seen since the 80’s Jackie Chan films. You know the ones, where every other moment is followed by an “Ow! That had to hurt!” or “Did you see THAT? G*** DAMN!” Along with Prachya Pinkaew they were able to get Tony Jaa on the map with Ong Bak, and show off just how crazy Thai stuntmen and women could be with Born To Fight. Tony Jaa, at the time, was the answer to the question of who would be the next big martial arts film star? The next question became, “so who would be the next big female martial arts star? What no one knew was that both men already had the answer to that, and it came in the form of a pint-sized button-cute college girl who also happens to be a Tae Kwon Do black belt, whom they tasked with a larger job than Tony’s: show of a bevy of martial arts skills in some fantastically choreographed fights and act your ass off so people will believe your character is autistic. Jeeja Yanin proves she’s up to the task.

Chocolate refers to the chocolate that Zen (Yanin), an autistic girl who lives with her mother, eats while watching Tony Jaa and Bruce Lee films. What even her mother doesn’t realize is that Zen’s autistic nature has made her a martial arts savant, able to watch martial artists practice at the dojo next door and be able to copy their movements exactly. The film opens with a flashback where we meet A yakuza operative named Mushashi (Abe) and his dealings with local Thai boss No. 8 (Wachirabunjong) or more to the point, his dealings with No 8’s main squeeze Zin (Siripong). They start an affair behind 8’s back, and sire a child, the aforementioned Zen. Both agree to stay away from each other as Zin goes on the run with Zen, and Mushashi returns to Japan.

Zin is found by 8 a few years later, and leaves with a piece of Zin as a warning. Many years later we meet the teenage Zen, and discover that Zin is suffering from cancer, and is running low on money to pay for the treatments. Zen’s friend Moom discovers a book that has a list of names of people who owe Zin money, or so they believe. They go to retrieve the money, not understanding the tragic events they’ve sent into motion by doing so. Every fight in the film comes from their attempts to collect the money from the various businesses that owe it. 8 finds out Zin’s location, and Mushashi must leave the Yakuza to save a daughter he’s never met and his true love, and it becomes a desperate fight to the finish for Zen to save the only thing she truly knows…her family.

Chocolate is a really different kind of martial arts film story. Yes, it does revolve around revenge, as so many do, but there’s more to it than that. The story at its core is a Romeo and Juliet tragedy, except Romeo and Juliet had a badass mentally challenged kid. The film reminds us that Mushashi and Zin are not good guys, or even nice people necessarily. The fact that we actually care about them is a testament to the terrific acting job they do, and the script. Perhaps they fight for Zen so much because she represents the one good thing they ever did? Not that Zen needed their help. Jeeja does a fantastic job, and bear in mind that the majority of her moves are Muay Thai, which she had to learn for this film.

The first real fight takes place in an ice factory, which gives a small taste of the mayhem that’s to follow, and follow it does, from terrific fight in a warehouse very reminiscent of Sammo Hung fight choreography, and an absolutely terrific fight inside a meat factory, which is impressive because the stuntmen do these stunts without wearing shirts, and you can feel the pain more since you know they aren’t wearing any sort of padding underneath. The final fight is stunning, starting with Zen versus two women and a guy on a rooftop to a fight inside a dojo against dozens of 8’s dumbass goons (why, o why do henchmen keep running in to fight when they just saw their five buddies before them get their asses kicked…rather easily? If they were my guys, they would be made to take tests in situational awareness.), and a fight with an epileptic fighter who uses a form of break dancing/capoeria, and finally her fight on the side of a three story building where she faces more logic-challenged goons and then 8 himself.  The dojo fight is an amazing display of choreography and movement. Panna Rittikrai goes all out for this one in a way that’s more impressive than Ong Bak. The fighting is more varied, and the challenges for Zen changes with each fight.

Jeeja Yanin is a true star in the making. She not only can perform the complex moves that Rittikrai had for her, deal with numerous injuries on a Jackie Chan level, but she was able to become a convincing autistic girl the entire film, even during the fights. She has the charisma to go far. Her film choices will always be what will ultimately sink or swim her career, but she has what it takes to be a star for her generation. Hiroshi Abe does a great job as her father as well, and his sword fight at the end is great, with an even greater start. Why sword fight when you’ve got a gun?

Prachya Pinkaew once again shows he knows how to direct a martial arts feature. The camera is dynamic but knows what angles to take and when to sit still. He loves to show the full movements of the fighters, not Bourne Identity-style camera work so prevalent in films today. Next to Jeeja herself are the stuntmen, who really gave it their all here. The Jackie Chan-style outtakes at the end of the film tell the story.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Every fight builds to the finale, which is an orgy of precise fight choreography and movement. Jeeja was spectacular, the dojo finale was fantastic.

STUNTWORK:(10) I hope they paid these guys well…really well. They went all out for this one, and made sure you cringe at ever fall and kick/punch they take. The meat factory scene was fantastic. It could not have been easy. The out takes show what pains they went through as much as it shows Jeeja’s.

STAR POWER:(8) Jeeja shows here she has what it takes to become a big star. What happens next is up to her. Since Tony Jaa joined the monk hood, it’s just her and Dan Chupong in Thailand for right now.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Chocolate is a great martial arts film that has a good story as well as great fight scenes. Jeeja has the makings of the next big thing. Be sure to watch the outtakes during the closing credits to see what Jeeja and the stuntmen went through for your entertainment!

Review: Ong Bak 2 (2008)

Posted in Prachya Pinkaew, Reviews, Tony Jaa with tags , , , , on January 24, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Tony Jaa

Fight Choreography by Tony Jaa

Directed by Tony Jaa

After Tony Jaa had another success with The Protector, he had a vision for a martial arts epic that would mark an apex for martial arts films more ambitious than anything the great Bruce Lee would have come up with, and created the story himself, and decided to also take on duties of fight choreographer as well as directing for the first time, something he was warned not to do by Prachya Pinkaew, long time friend and the director of Ong Bak. Tony dismissed his caution, and what followed was a film that marked both a low and high point of his career…

The film begins in Thailand circa 1421, and the Ayuthaya armies are moving quickly through Thailand, and we center on young twelve-year-old Tien, son of a local Lord, who is being whisked away by his father’s most trusted guard, the armies of Ayuthaya chasing them. After the guard leaves Tien in a place of hiding, Tien is captured by a slave trading tribe and taken to their village, where he is thrown into a crocodile pit for entertainment, which would be replaced centuries later by Survivor. The more things change…

Tien’s death is averted when the village is attacked by pirates, or to be more to the point, Extremely Badass Samurai, Kung-Fu, Muay Thai, Silat, and All Kinds of Wicked Shit I Can’t Pronounce Guys. This film calls them pirates for short, so we’ll go with that. Their leader, Chernang, helps Tien by tossing him a knife and telling him, “ that’s it from us. Your on your own, bro!” Tien does kill the croc, and Chernang decides he might be just badass enough to join his crew. Tien is taken in, and over the years he learns every damn thing they have to teach him. We fast forward years later, and now and adult Tien (Jaa) is testing to officially join the pirates, which involves first taming the King of the Elephants, which is kind of silly, and then fighting off a string of opponents, which is not so silly. He then goes on a bunch of raids, and soon turns his attention to Lord Rajsena, who had his mother and father killed. He plots his revenge, but finds that exacting his revenge may very well cost him the life he has forged for himself now…

I’m not sure why they called this Ong Bak 2, since it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the original film. I’ve heard some critics call it a Karmic Trilogy, but they may just need to put the hash pipe down and recognize it may be just capitalizing on the name. Of course I may be wrong about that. Maybe the third film clears that up?

This is a dark film, and there are rarely any happy moments. The lightest moments occur when the young Tien meets a crazy villager named Dirty Balls, played by Ong Bak and The Protector’s Petchtai Wongkamlao, who is funny here as he is in the other films, but he’s barely there. Jaa does a really good job keeping the mood tense almost the entire film. You know he’s building to something, but keeps you on your toes to find out what it is. I’ve heard people are discouraged by the ending, but I felt it was strangely appropriate, since we know there’s another film coming.

The fight scenes are nothing short of incredible. The fight against the village slavers was terrific, but nothing can prepare you for the final fight in the pirate’s village. It’s a nearly 30 minute fight scene that will leave even the most jaded martial arts film fan exhausted. Tony pulls out the stops for this fight, using kung-fu, muay thai, sword, 3 section staff, and what feels like every damn martial art ever created, even using a live elephant as a weapon at one point. Just as Bruce used the Fists of Fury to really show himself off, and Jackie used Drunken Master, This film may be the classic film that defines Tony’s skills.

This is also the film that may have ended his career. It’s well publicized that he had a nervous breakdown during the filming and disappeared for several weeks during production. He was running well over budget and the film was running late. He tearfully made his appearance on a radio station to discuss what happened, and Baa Ram Ewe brought in his Ong Bak director Prachya Pinkaew to help edit and finish directing the film. There was so much footage that they shot additional scenes and split the film into two parts. Nevertheless, the damage to Jaa appears to have been done, and it’s easy to see why. Jaa wanted to direct his own films like his idol Jackie Chan, but Jackie cut his teeth behind the camera for years before he stepped in front of it, and did so when there were no expectations of him. Jaa had to be under immense pressure to top his other films, and after watching the fight scenes, it had to be too much, to balance that, the budget, the studio’s demands, and his own lofty standards. Jaa joined the monkhood, and who knows when he will return? It may be a year, two years, ten years. We may have seen the last of Jaa. I hope that’s not the case, but for now we have to consider him lost to cinema history—until he comes back.

Tony Jaa aimed for the moon and actually hit it with this film, and like his character Tien, Tony was unaware his ambition was going to come with a spiritual and physical cost…

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) The fight scenes are stunning, and easily ranks with some of the best martial arts films of all time. Tony fuses what feels like dozens of styles and manages to still portray each one in an exciting and meaningful way. The movements were graceful and brutal all at once, fast-paced and complex.

STUNTWORK: (10) The running across the stampeding elephant scene was pure lunacy on Tony’s part, but looks incredible. The stuntmen really took it on the chin here, and were the recipients of some terrible falls and strikes, and performed admirably in what had to be a hard shoot, and were able to match Tony’s energy onscreen.

STAR POWER: (9) Tony is at his best here, but we all know what this may have cost him. Who knows what will happen with his career now?

FINAL GRADE: (10) This is one of the best martial arts films ever, mainly from a fighting standpoint. The story did the job it needed to do, and there isn’t enough that can be said about the ambition of the fight scenes. Let’s hope that this and Ong Bak 3 aren’t the last we hear from Tony Jaa…


Review: Ong Bak (2005)

Posted in Dan Chupong, Erik Marcus Schuetz, Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew, Tony Jaa with tags , on May 13, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Tony Jaa, Dan Chupong, Eric Marcus Schuetz

Directed by Prachya Pinkaew

Fight Choreography by Panna Rittikrai and Tony Jaa

In 2005 martial arts cinema was growing dim. Jackie Chan was starting to show his age, and both he and Jet were making vastly inferior American martial arts films, and Hong Kong seemed to be stuck in wire-fu films. Donnie Yen was on the verge of breaking through, but before he could out came Ong Bak, which would be the beginning of a flood of martial arts films from Asian countries not named China or Japan, and introduced the world to its newest martial arts star: Tony Jaa.

Jaa plays Ting, a religious young man from a small village named Nong Pradu. Yes, he’s that badass country bumpkin played by so many others over the years, but its a formula that aways seems to work, especially since this is in Thailand. The film opens with a large group of guys who are about to make their chiropractor very happy making their way up a large tree, but what a tree it is, as these 20-some-odd guys run up it, tossing, kicking and punching anyone they run into off as a part of some village ceremony to become the new protector of the village. This scene, sets the stage for the entire film, reminding us of the reckless stuntman abandon not seen since Jackie Chan’s 80’s films, which is a good thing. Ting wins the ceremony, making him the next Ong Bak priest. Holy crap, the baddest ass guy in the town gets to be the damn priest! I’d hate to run into their local constable. Badassery x10! anyhow, Ting is preparing for his christening ceremony, showing him going into some of his Muay Thai forms.

As the rest of the village prepares for the festival and ceremony celebrating Ong Bak, the statue that the people worship of a diety that brings peace and tranquility to their land, embodied by the statue. So of course some total douche has to steal its head. The lucky fool is named Don, who steals it to pay his debts to the local mob boss in Bangkok. Ting leaves for the big city, getting the money for the entire town to fund his journey to get Ong Bak back, and is also given side mission to find a villager’s son named Humlae who had left some years prior for Bangkok, and not heard from since.

We soon find Humlae, now calling himself George, running scam jobs with his partner, a young girl named Muay. They try to scam a local gang, but as it seems happens often, George gets his ass kicked and his money taken. Soon Ting finds him, much to his dismay, as he wants to forget where he came from. George takes Ting in, but no sooner than you can say “sucker” George steals Ting’s money and takes off for the local underground fight club, run by Don’s boss, a guy in a wheelchair and a neck hole thingy he talks through. Ting arrives to get his money (they never say how he finds the place. I’m guessing he’s got an internal Jackass meter), and in doing so is inadvertently engaged in a fight. Well, we’ll call it what it is, a guy running into Ting’s leg and deciding it wasn’t really worth pursuing further. Ting gets his money back, and George see dollar signs. Meanwhile the crops dry up, and a drought hits the entire town. Jeez, armageddon took how long, like 2 days? Damn, that Ong Bak is hardcore.

The next day finds George, for whom no good beating is ever enough, running yet another scam job, this time at a local gambling establishment, and once again bites off more than he and Muay can chew. Ting shows up, and while he doesn’t care if George gets his ass kicked, goes into action when Muay gets slapped around, which would become a pattern for this guy. Dude: learn to defend yourself, asshole. Lady: To the rescue, but only after you get a tooth knocked out! It would be nice for Ting to become a bit proactive with his saves. Peng, the guy they ripped off earlier, shows up, but with more men than Ting can handle, and this leads to a fantastic chase through town, with Ting showing off acrobatics we haven’t seen since Jackie Chan’ s early days. (Note the second reference to JC. If you look closely at Tony’s first two films, they evoke many of Jackie Chan’s actions scenes from the 80’s, which makes a lot of sense. Tony was a kid at that time, and JC was probably his hero growing up. I believe in some interviews he’s admitted as much.) Tony takes some of those acrobatics to the next level, providing some exciting moves that are incredibly graceful. Comic relief abounds in this scene, particularly a moment involving a knife saleswoman.

Soon Ting and George are back at the fight club, this time to find Don. While doing so, a local fight who looks a lot like a stunt double for Slash from Guns ‘n Roses threatens a woman to get Ting to fight him, saying things about Muay Thai style that you just don’t say. Ting ignores him, and a local waiter come in to save her, and gets his ass beaten badly. Once again Ting is like “dude, you should’ve learned how to fight. You’ll learn after you get out of ICU.” Once the same woman tries to save the guy and gets her jaw rearranged for her trouble, Ting goes all “AW HELL NO” and gets into the ring to provide the patrons, and the film audience as well, a clinic on Muay Thai, which is not that Van Damme shit you see in films like Kickboxer. He kicks Slash’s ass, and proceeds to fight a guy who fights with some form of Kung Fu, or maybe Tae Kwon Do, but it doesn’t matter as he kicks that dude’s ass too. The last opponent is the one thing in this film that bothers me. Rather than give us an amazing fighter to end the scene, they give is a guy who looks like a back up rapper for House of Pain throwing shit at Ting, who either blocks or dodges or simply gets hit with all the crap the guy throws at him. This is the film’s weakest moment.

Ting and George track Don to his apartment, which leads to a laughable chase through Bangkok on some sort of vehicle that looks like a large go cart, and Don’s buddies get in the chase well. Maybe it was the way it was filmed, but those things look like they were going 2 miles an hour. The chase ends in Don escaping, but Ting discovers a cache of hidden artifacts that Don’s boss is pissed to lose, so he kidnaps George and Muay, and threatens to kill them unless Ting gets in a ring and fights Saming, his right hand man, who takes some sort of drugs to raise his adrenaline, and beats Ting like a drum.

Of course the bad guys won’t keep their end of the bargain, and attempt to have all of them killed, which really pisses Ting off as he just got his ass kicked for them. This leads Ting to kick ass left and right , and even kick a dude’s ass with his LEGS ON FIRE, which sets a new standard for badassery. After delivering a package marked “ass kick” to Don, Ting and George go to an excavation site where all of the bad guys are gathered, about to take the head of a diety much like Ong Bak illegally, and Ting must deliver another impressive beating to a group of unfortunates. I couldn’t help but notice these stunt men were wearing padding, which I suppose couldn’t be helped, but took me out a little bit. Still awesome scene of Tony delivering fantastic move after move. After warming up, Ting faces Saming again, and this time whoops his ass. I loved it when Saming then stabbed himself with 5 syringes of that adrenaline drug. Even the mob boss is like, “dude, WTF?” It doesn’t really matter as Ting uses his elbows to turn Saming’s skull into the consistency of jello. This is one of like 3 times Ting has to kill this guy, who keep s getting up again and again until Ting has to pile drive his knees into the guys chest and fall 2 stories and implant him into the ground.

Soon Ong Bak is saved, but at the cost of George’s life. Ting and Muay return to the Nong Pradu, and Ting is sworn in as a priest, thanks to George, the man who hated his village enough to leave it but at the same time loved it enough to sacrifice himself to save it. A satisfying ending.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Excellent for a debut film from a new star. The fights really hearken back to the HK work from the 80’s and early 90’s before wire-fu and wuxia films took over. A harder style is refreshing, and looks less like the dance like choreography of Hong Kong films. A great showcase of Muay Thai fighting. The only knock was that scene between Tony and that House of Pain guy. Other than that, good work.

STUNTS: (9) Great stuff from these guys. They took hits and tossed themselves around impressively, and timed everything well, and did some of what looked like horrendous falls. We haven’t seen this level of stunt work since Police Story 1 and 2.

DIRECTION: (8) Prachya Pinkaew does a great job positioning the camera so we can see everything that goes on, and nothing is MTV-edited. The story is simple but flows well, and the actors are convincing for what they are asked to do. He makes sure the camera is on Tony so you can see that it’s all him.

STAR POWER: (8) Tony is a great martial artist, but his acting can use a bit of work. He seethes, but still seems just a little lost on dialogue scenes, but since that isn’t why we watch, nothing is lost there. He’ll improve as he gains experience.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Tony Jaa took the martial arts film world by storm, and this film sent a clear message that China would no longer have a stranglehold on the best martial arts films out there, and this film would pave the way for a new wave of martial artists. A simple story with good fight scenes, and truly showcases a brand new talent. His best is yet to come.