bryant: (Abbi)

Port of Call: A

Excellent Hong Kong drama based on a real murder case from 2008. Aaron Kwok was superb in this; he goes old, with grey hair and a mustache, and really vanishes into the role. It’s a tough part, full of damaged psyches grating against each other in an endless cycle. He plays it whimsical with a ton of pain showing right under the surface: comedy as defense mechanism.

The movie is set in seedy Hong Kong, where low-lives and desperate souls live. Occasionally we see glimpses of privilege and wealth. Christopher Doyle is the cinematographer, and he’s unsurprisingly perfect at showing us the contrast between those two places. It’s as if wealth was a source of light, and unwise phototropic souls reached out to it like a lifeline, only to find it was sterile. (Doyle always inspires me to clumsy light-based metaphors. Love his work.)

Other than Aaron Kwok making sad jokes which fail to dispel his pain, there’s very little humor in the movie. There are sequences of explicit death and violence. People are not nice to one another. It gets a lot of power from being unflinching.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Maggie)

Full Strike: B

This was pretty much OK. Very broad Hong Kong sports comedy with all the usual bits. There’s a drunken master, there’s an evil magistrate, there’s familial tension, and so on. Oh, and a random alien who lands in a UFO that looks like a badminton shuttlecock. Don’t pay too much attention to him, since he’s not actually part of the movie.

Right — the sport is badminton. Serious business! The producer, Andrew Ooi, introduced the movie and explained that they’re all big fans of badminton so why not make a movie about it? Fair enough.

Josie Ho was a standout; her transitions from washed up ex-champion to fierce competitor were a nice bit of acting. That’s the extra effort that you don’t always see in a farce.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Maggie)

That didn’t suck.

Let The Bullets Fly is not really a Chow Yun Fat movie in the way that The Ides of March isn’t really a George Clooney movie. It’s just that when you get an actor that charismatic, a movie tends to lean towards him or her. Pleasingly enough, Jiang Wen is equally magnetic and is both the star and the director, so the charisma duel is just about even. You can’t say the same for the duel between their characters, but that’s the story of the movie. Note: it’s a battle of wits, without a whole lot of significant gunplay. It’s a black comedy at heart.

I don’t expect a Hong Kong comedy to be dry and witty, thanks to decades of Stephen Chow and a lot of Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung slapstick. Let The Bullets Fly is completely wry. There’s slapstick in the way the Coen Brothers do it: with a lot of bite beneath the surface. It’s also fairly poignant in a weird sort of a way. Without ever making it explicit, Jiang Wen’s Pocky Zhang undergoes a transformation during the course of his long con.

It’s a gorgeous movie as well. The 1920s vistas are spectacular and Jiang Wen has a great sense of motion. His imagery is likewise excellent. He uses certain visuals, in particular a fortune in silver, as unifying thematic elements. When the final scene is reached and he substitutes something else for the silver, it’s awfully powerful and effective.

Recommended, as long as you don’t expect another Chow Yun Fat heroic bloodshed piece.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Maggie)

That didn’t suck.

Let The Bullets Fly is not really a Chow Yun Fat movie in the way that The Ides of March isn’t really a George Clooney movie. It’s just that when you get an actor that charismatic, a movie tends to lean towards him or her. Pleasingly enough, Jiang Wen is equally magnetic and is both the star and the director, so the charisma duel is just about even. You can’t say the same for the duel between their characters, but that’s the story of the movie. Note: it’s a battle of wits, without a whole lot of significant gunplay. It’s a black comedy at heart.

I don’t expect a Hong Kong comedy to be dry and witty, thanks to decades of Stephen Chow and a lot of Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung slapstick. Let The Bullets Fly is completely wry. There’s slapstick in the way the Coen Brothers do it: with a lot of bite beneath the surface. It’s also fairly poignant in a weird sort of a way. Without ever making it explicit, Jiang Wen’s Pocky Zhang undergoes a transformation during the course of his long con.

It’s a gorgeous movie as well. The 1920s vistas are spectacular and Jiang Wen has a great sense of motion. His imagery is likewise excellent. He uses certain visuals, in particular a fortune in silver, as unifying thematic elements. When the final scene is reached and he substitutes something else for the silver, it’s awfully powerful and effective.

Recommended, as long as you don’t expect another Chow Yun Fat heroic bloodshed piece.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Maggie)

Tuesday night plans:

Sneak preview down at the Alamo. It’s a pretty Hong Kong week for me, yep.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Default)

Tuesday night plans:

Sneak preview down at the Alamo. It’s a pretty Hong Kong week for me, yep.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Maggie)

In a hypothetical world, someone with a huge cache of Hong Kong flicks but without clearance to show them might ask attendees of a movie marathon to stay mum about the actual movies shown.

In unrelated news, the Alamo Drafthouse Hongkongathon was way better than I’d anticipated. I was expecting a bunch of exploitation stuff and a good time, rather than great movies. In practice, Grady Hendrix showed us two serious classics, two pretty entertaining movies, and one bottomless pit of sleazy horror. I managed to stay awake for the whole thing by some minor miracle, given my advanced age. Grady’s effervescent introductions probably had a lot to do with that. We started at 10 PM and got out at 7:30; five movies and two trailer reels. One trailer reel was dedicated to Category 3 erotica, which perhaps saved us from having to watch an entire Cat 3 movie. Good call. The other one was trailers for 70s US releases of Shaw Brothers flicks, and highly entertaining.

If you dig Hong Kong movies this would actually be worth the travel to Austin if they do it again. They think they might. Awesome.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Maggie)

In a hypothetical world, someone with a huge cache of Hong Kong flicks but without clearance to show them might ask attendees of a movie marathon to stay mum about the actual movies shown.

In unrelated news, the Alamo Drafthouse Hongkongathon was way better than I’d anticipated. I was expecting a bunch of exploitation stuff and a good time, rather than great movies. In practice, Grady Hendrix showed us two serious classics, two pretty entertaining movies, and one bottomless pit of sleazy horror. I managed to stay awake for the whole thing by some minor miracle, given my advanced age. Grady’s effervescent introductions probably had a lot to do with that. We started at 10 PM and got out at 7:30; five movies and two trailer reels. One trailer reel was dedicated to Category 3 erotica, which perhaps saved us from having to watch an entire Cat 3 movie. Good call. The other one was trailers for 70s US releases of Shaw Brothers flicks, and highly entertaining.

If you dig Hong Kong movies this would actually be worth the travel to Austin if they do it again. They think they might. Awesome.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Shadow)

Should you ever happen to be in Singapore and desirous of spending a thousand bucks or so on me, this is what I want. It’s the nearly complete Shaw Brothers collection, 668 films, on one set-top box. Presumably there’s a hard drive in there. HDMI output, 720p picture quality, from the Celestial Pictures remastered rereleases. Man, that would be awesome. At a thousand bucks, it’s reasonably priced on a per movie basis, too. Alas, they won’t ship outside Singapore.

Mirrored from Population: One.

bryant: (Shadow)

I took advantage of a Christmas Amazon gift certificate to fill a few holes in my old Hong Kong movie collection plus make a gesture towards catching up on more recent Hong Kong flicks. I know the Hong Kong movie scene is never going to be quite what it was back in the day, but it’s not like the last decade was a wasteland or anything. I’m behind!

Thus Susan and I watched Sha Po Lang last night. (You’d find it on US video shelves as Kill Zone; despite Miramax’s reputation and the horrendous new title, it’s an unclipped unmangled version.) Simon Yam was the big draw for me, cause I’ve always thought he’s a great Hong Kong character actor, plus it’s got a great rep, plus of course Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen.

So that was a good choice. As heroic bloodshed movies go, it’s not all that heroic, plus it’s more of a martial arts movie than a gunplay movie. It’s coming from the same place as the old John Woo classics, though, just without the moral brightness. The fight scenes are superb, the brutality is sudden and deft, and the personalities are turned up to eleven.

Although, you know, I’m probably doing it an injustice there when I bring up heroic bloodshed. The thing that makes Sha Po Lang really stand out is that the characters are nearly universally dark. Yeah, the propulsive anger that powers the movie is related to Chow Yun Fat’s righteous fury from any number of movies, and the sense of brotherhood is there, but this movie — like Infernal Affairs, to which it owes a great debt — is a deconstruction of the heroic bloodshed myth. Rogue cops are not always forces for good.

Possibly Sammo Hung’s role as a villain — “the first time I’ve done that in twenty-five years” — was also part of that. I’d love to ask Wilson Yip what he had in mind there.

Oh, and if you’re the kind of sad person who won’t go out and rent a movie on my say so, you could always watch this fight scene, which is awesome, but you ought to let the movie build up properly instead of watching it out of context.

Mirrored from Population: One.

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