Greetings and Salutations to all who read this still. Just a quick post before I get into lengthy discussions on the merits of the films of Rudy Ray Moore. If you like action films, you are bound to like Asian cinema. If you like Asian cinema, you know it goes beyond action films. To help expand the word on Hong Kong cinema, I am promoting one of my favourite film sites,Lovehkfilm.com. The reviews are humorous, self-aware and escape all types of fan-boy knee-jerk reactions that sometimes occur with such country or genre specific film sites.
One of the features on the Lovehkfilm.com I frequently return to is their Best of the Decades polls which readers nominate their best films of the decade. It’s a good reference for those taking their first baby-steps into Hong Kong cinema and for seasoned vets who need to seek out the more forgotten titles. The site has already done lists for the the top 100 of the 1990s and the top 50 of the 2000s and are currently doing one for the 1980s. If you have an e-mail, you can vote so it’s easy as just following the instructions here. Be sure to take time and think of not just films you think are obviously the best but films you think that deserve more respect or support. I’m looking forward to the results and hearing about what your votes are. Be quick though as the poll closes on February 29th. Get out and vote!!
That’s all for now, I’ll try to get back to real posts on my own content sometime in the near future. Get out and vote!
So I’m back. School is done for another semester and I can actually get down to some reviews. Despite not blogging, I did manage to catch several action films theatrically during my school time, namely Die Hard, Eastern Condors, and Attack the Block!.
But holidays are still busy times, so let’s focus on something that caught my attention. the horrible cover of Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai by Mike Taxi Takashi Miike. Let’s take a peek.
At first glance, it’s a bit generic but I’m not expecting a Criterion or Masters of Cinema cover here. The lame age warnings on the cover are typical Region 2 DVD stuff that appears on everything from Goodfellas (Gangster violence!) to My Neighbor Totoro (Gangster catbus!). There’s some just some really odd decisions on this cover. Let’s examine the most obvious glaring problems.
Well, this is difficult. For those who have been collecting Asian films on DVD for a while this kind of bad quality is sometimes expected, but why is the sword such nice quality? Is it that hard to find a decent resolution screen capture from this film? or a promo photo? Let alone one that doesn’t have some splatter brush on the sword. Eau de photoshop is what I’d refer to this if I was critiquing work at school.
Photoshop dorkery aside, let’s get what’s wrong with this filmwise. Take a closer look to the bottom of the cover of this package.
That’s odd. I don’t recall Ken Watanabe being in this film. In fact, he seems to have kept his clothes from The Last Samurai.
Yep. Surprisingly, this isn’t even the worst offender on the cover. Look who we have in the left corner.
Now we have some serious problems. That’s Toshiro Mifune who starred in several of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films. He’s dead. Did Takashi Miike use some stock footage of Toshiro and shove him into this film?
Regardless of these problems, I took two seconds and fixed this cover from total humiliation in just two seconds.
School is hard. Going to school while doing part-time work at the school is harder. Living far away from the school to complete all these things is the hardest of them all. Not only did I miss screenings of Missing in Action 1 + 2 at the Mayfair this month due to education interfering, I’ve found myself unable to even find time to blog. How horrid!
I refuse to put a blog on hiatus, so I’m going to try and provide bite-size posts inbetween the longer more visual ones (i.e:good posts). I was previously working on a post involving a good overview of the action films selected by the Hong Kong Film Archive for their list of “100 Must-See Hong Kong Movies”. That list had some strange choices (Dirty Ho over The 36th Chamber of Shaolin) and several Wong-Kar Wai films, but no Chungking Express. It’s an interesting overview at least to see how Hong Kong film experts feel are the classics compared to us Western fans.
Back to the point, I worked on a blog post that began to become a pain as I continued to try and write it. To cut it short, I’ll write about the one interesting looking film that I’ve never heard of before. Let’s watch martial arts films from the 1940s with Wong Fei Hung’s Whip that Smacks the Candle (1949).
Don’t believe me? This film is actually making rounds theatrically at festivals:
No actual candle smacking in this clip
Compare the pacing in this film to this film to anything else from the 1940s, and this is lightning fast with surprisingly competent choreography. The film was directed by Wu Pang who was previously known for making melodramas. His Wong Fei Hung’s Whip that Smacks the Candle was a big hit in Hong Kong and received a followup with an equally boss title: Wong Fei Hung Burns the Tyrant’s Lair which was also a hit.
My own reseach doesn’t tell me what Wu Pang followed these up with, but I personally like to assume his later films still involved Wong Fei Hung doing more things: Wong Fei Hung goes to Shanghai or Wong Fei Hung builds his Dream Home. Probably not the case, but someone with a better knowledge of Hong Kong films before the 1960s can help you out with that.
This film does not seem to be available on YesAsia or Amazon, but the internet savy among you will find ways to watch this. I know I will.
Noted geriatric director William Friedkin is awesome. Anyone who’s resume includes The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A., Sorcerer, and The Exorcist is pretty damn up there in my books. Sure he’s filled the rest of his career with horrible films like the non-erototic thriller Jade and the evil-tree film The Guardian, but I think his good far outways his bad. Besides, for some reason I have a copy of The Guardian in my VHS collection in my old house. I never bought it so I have no idea how I got it.
Friedkin may have fallen of all but the most die-hard fans radar, but he’s still working and when he speaks people listen. Recently, he’s attacked the most popular trend of the 2000s in American cinema: superhero comic book films.
Friedkin basically goes on to say that today, a film like The French Connection would not be made by a film studio. In the interview he feels that audiences have changed and are now more “conditioned by television and television is aimed at the lowest common denominator… their expectations are lower.” I would agree with Friedkin for the most part. An average modern film audience are not too bored with the output of modern day superhero films put out. I haven’t taken a look at any of this years superhero films as I find they lack action and occasionally feel a bit toothless. I think the real lack of action scenes in Iron Man 2 sort of put me on hold from them. To make a point against Friedkin, not all films are as family friendly as Fantastic Four or Iron Man. I’d say that films like Nolan’s The Dark Knight or even films that I don’t think completely worked like The Watchmen weren’t necessarily made just to put on Easter candy and kids backpacks.
Friedkin is 76 years old and it’s easy to paint him as some sort of Grandpa Simpson type figure when he’s critiquing films and modern audiences but I do notice a severe lack of teeth in modern day thrillers and action films. Thankfully, Friedkin is not attacking comic-books as a whole as one of his idols Fritz Lang was a big fan of them when he moved to America. Not to mention a lot of great films have been released that were not superhero based, such as Cronenberg’s A History of Violence As for films for adults that are still gritty and violent, I still have a good amount of Korean thrillers from my previous bargain bin hunting jaunts, so I’m in no worry of Hollywood not suiting my thrill based appetite.
Luc Besson fans generally praise some of his 90s films such as The Professional, Nikita and The Fifth Element. On the otherside, we has his detractors who claim his films are poorly told stories derivative of American and Hong Kong action films. Personally, I’m on the fence about his works. Some people have referred to him as the French Spielberg or the French John Woo, but since he’s slowed down his film output (outside making animated films or movies involving woman who releases a pterodactyl in Paris), I’m leaning towards the group that believe he’s more like a French Roger Corman. Since the 2000s, he’s been more active churning out scripts for French directors who are now handling a lot of the major Hollywood action films. These include Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, Transporter 2 and The Incredible Hulk), Pierre Morel (District B13, Taken and From Paris with Love). I’m not sure how Besson and Europa pick directors, but Morel claims to have started at Europa by making tea for Bessson and crew.
For those not in the know, Roger Corman managed to make a lot of quickies that usually worked, but (in my opinion) usually range from bad to average. Besson is in the same boat and I usually put his screenplays to blame which often feel rushed and lack good story-telling techniques. That’s why when I see his name attached to a script, I get a bit concerned! Columbiana is not exception. Directed by the amazingly named Olivier Megaton, it’s a slick film but manages to simply be quite …average. I mean really really average. All the actors are all superbly okay: actin’s okay, clean visuals with a sexy lead who dreams of being a killer at a young age to get her revenge on the people who killed her parents. You’ve seen it all before not only in Besson’s films like Nikita, but in his other productions with revenge as an ingredient.
I don’t even know if I’d recommend it for seasoned Besson fans as it’s just far too familiar to anyone who’s seen his earlier films. Even if you ignore Besson and are one of the world’s few Olivier Megaton fans, you’ll find he’s toned down action in comparison to his previous film Transporter 3 leaving nothing but revenge story in it’s place until the final act. The action during the fist fight at the end is some of the worst I’ve seen from a major studio production. Why am I having so much trouble following punches between two people in a single room? I’m going to assume that the action is toned down as well Corey Yuen was not involved with the action choreography, as he was in Transporter 3. Unless you can pass seeing the attractive of Zoe Saldaña in motion, then you can gi…
Well, that was fast.
Damn you Besson, you finished your script before I finished my blog. But yes, Colombiana will hardly leave you breathless if you remember it at all after leaving the theater. Avoid!