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#1 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 12:30 PM

Johnnie To Kei-Fung
johnnietoelection-bts.jpg

Johnnie To is one of the most exciting and aesthetically pleasing auteurs out of Hong Kong. What is unique about To is that he has stayed in Hong Kong. So far he has eschewed bigger budget mainland productions and Hollywood (though he has not ruled this out) for personal and populist fare while many of his older contemporaries have dropped out of the Cantonese language market. Johnnie To is not only a director but a producer as well. His production company Milkyway Image (along with partner Wai Ka-fai) has helped keep Hong Kong cinema relevant in the post-handover age and has financed his more personal projects like PTU and Sparrow with commercial movies like Love On a Diet.

He started inauspiciously in 1973 as on office assistant for TVB (Hong Kong Television Broadcast Limited) and slowly worked his way up until eventually he got a directing chance in 1980. He stayed with TVB until 1990 though he had directed several features on the side that had become huge local hits like The Eight Happiness and All About Ah Long.

His career is filled with a plethora of commercial and art fare from the ridiculous to the sublime. Though he is most famous for his triad films he has also helmed ghost, comedy, action (gun and martial arts), drama, gambling and a mixture of all of the above genres. He has personally stated that his auteur career began with Loving You and he has not always been kind in his opinion of his earlier directed movies. However, there is much to be gleaned from his earlier works where the stars had much more influence on the film then the director from the strong melodrama in All About Ah Long to the Stephen Chow dominated comedies including Justice, My Foot! and The Mad Monk.

Filmography:
The Enigmatic Case (1980)
Happy Ghost III (1986) (as Executive Director)
Seven Years Itch (1987)
It's No Heaven (1988)
The Eighth Happiness (1988)
The Big Heat (1988) (co-dir Andrew Kam Yeung-Wa)
All About Ah Long (1989)
The Iron Butterfly (1989)
The Iron Butterfly 2 (1990)
The Fun, the Luck and the Tycoon (1990)
A Moment of Romance (1990) (To uncredited; Benny Chan Muk-Sing dir)
The Story of My Son (1990)
Royal Scoundrel (1991) (co-dir Jonathan Chik Gei-Yee)
Casino Raiders II (1991)
Lucky Encounter (1992)
Justice, My Foot! (1992)
The Heroic Trio (1993)
The Bare-Footed Kid (1993)
The Mad Monk (1993)
Executioners (1993) (co-dir Tony Ching Siu-Tung)
Loving You (1995)
A Moment of Romance III (1996)
Lifeline (1997)
The Odd One Dies (1997) (To uncredited; Patrick Yau Tat-Chi dir)
The Longest Nite (1998) (To uncredited; Patrick Yau Tat-Chi dir)
Expect The Unexpected (1998) (To uncredited; Patrick Yau Tat-Chi dir)
A Hero Never Dies (1998)
Where a Good Man Goes (1999)
Running Out of Time (1999)
The Mission (1999)
Needing You ... (2000) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Help!!! (2000) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Wu Yen (2001) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Love On a Diet (2001) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Fulltime Killer (2001) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Running Out of Time 2 (2001) (co-dir Law Wing-Cheong)
Fat Choi Spirit (2002) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts (2002) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
1:99 Shorts (2003) (segment "Rhapsody" with co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Love For All Seasons (2003) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
PTU (2003)
Turn Left, Turn Right (2003) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Running on Karma (2003) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Breaking News (2004)
Throw Down (2004)
Yesterday Once More (2004)
Election (2005)
Election 2 (2006)
Exiled (2006)
Triangle (2007) (co-dir Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam Ling-Tung)
Mad Detective (2007) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai) David Bordwell [insert essay for MOC]
Linger (2008)
Sparrow (2008)
Vengeance (2009)
Don't Go Breaking My Heart (2011) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Life Without Principle (2011)
Romancing in Thin Air (2012)

Drug War (2012)
Blind Detective (2013)

Bibliography:
Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Film (2007) by Stephen Teo Review
Historical Dictionary of Hong Kong Cinema (2007) by Lisa Stokes pgs. 320, 428-430
Johnnie to Kei-fung's PTU (2009) by Michael Ingham
Planet Hong Kong Second Edition (2011) by David Bordwell pgs. 241-264


Web Links:
Senses of Cinema -- Interview: Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai (2001)
The Belated Auteurism of Johnnie To by Andrew Grossman (Jan. 2001)
Harry Sheehan -- Interview (March 12, 2003) Link Currently Broken
Interview Johnnie To Cinemasie (Oct. 2004)
Time Out -- Johnie To: The auteur (2008)
Interview: Johnnie To on "Mad Detective" by R. Emmet Sweeney (July 11, 2008) Link Currently Broken
Hollywood Reporter -- Interview (Oct. 12, 2009) Link Currently Broken
Talk Asia: Johnnie To -- Interview Video (Feb. 10, 2010) Link Currently Broken
Once upon some times in Hong Kong (Nov. 18, 2010)
Hong Kong Cinemagic Article (Feb. 28, 2011)
HKMDB
Love HK Film


Highly Recommended:
Running Out of Time (1999)
The Mission (1999)
PTU (2003)
Throw Down (2004)
Election (2005)
Exiled (2006)
Mad Detective (2007) (co-dir Wai Ka-Fai)
Sparrow (2008)


Edited by masterofoneinchpunch, 26 January 2016 - 12:59 PM.
Added link


#2 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 11:36 AM

Some capsule reviews:

All About Ah Long (1989: Hong Kong ***/****):
If one was to think about a film starring Hong Kong stalwart Chow Yun-fat and directed by the audacious auteur Johnnie To one would envision a quirky gun ballet with contemplative machismo characters. What you get is a family melodrama that centers on relationships. Of course there is a reason for this. This is early in To's career and really this is a Chow Yun-fat and Sylvia Chang vehicle. Not only do they star in it, they are also responsible for the story. Also with the popularity of Chow during this time period it is hard to imagine a newer director having too much control over him.

This film was a critical and popular smash in Hong Kong. It grossed 30M Hong Kong dollars and was nominated for Nine Hong Kong Film Awards including best director for Johnnie To (Election, PTU) and best actress for Sylvia Chang (Aces Go Places (1982)) with one winner going to the acting performance of Chow Yun-Fat.

Chow stars as Ah Long a loving ex-motorcycle racer Dad who takes care of his only son while working construction. After a two year stint in jail (the summary of the movie states he was a gang member, but I do not think that is why we went to jail) he took his son out of the orphanage and has been doing his best to help him grow up. Through a fluke encounter where his son won a contract for an advertisement Ah Long meets his previous girlfriend (the mother of the child played by Sylvia Chang) who returned from the states, is doing quite well and wants to insert herself into the life of her son.

The ending was really the only bad thing about the film. It did not fit, tried to be emotional but felt completely forced and did not help the movie.

It has been compared to Kramer vs. Kramer in many reviews, but do not go into it thinking it is derived or influenced from that film. There are a few similarities and one sub-plot that almost goes into the main theme of that movie, but it quickly diverges into another angle (being a bit vague since it is part of the main theme towards the end of the movie).

I really enjoyed the acting performances (sometimes delving into the overly dramatic) and Chow's atypical multifaceted performance as a good guy with a mediocre past trying to do his best. Fortune Star has a R0 DVD available (not the one I watched though).

Justice, My Foot! (1992: Hong Kong: **½/****):
This was an insanely popular Hong Kong film grossing almost 50 million HK dollars when it came out making it the highest grossing movie of that year for that region. Much of the verbal moleitau (nonsense) humor does not translate because of the idiomatic nature of the humor and the subtitles have to be extremely well done and since I do not speak Cantonese (other than a few words here and there) I cannot judge how well the subtitles are done. Luckily there is enough slapstick and situational comedy that does translate. Fart jokes are ubiquitous and never need translation.

Sung Sai Kit (Stephen Chow) is an adroit lawyer, in an undisclosed period (possibly Qing Dynasty), whose verbal skills are in such awe that he can persuade any judge to rule in his client's favor. However, while his unscrupulous behavior has made him rich and successful it has caused bad karma and resulted in the premature death of many of his sons before their first birthday (another example of Chow using serious or depressing material in a silly comedy). His wife (Anita Mui) is an excellent Kung Fu practitioner who talks her husband into retiring (sealing up his brush: a writing utensil that the lawyer uses in court) until a real case comes up in which he has to unretire the brush.

Mui is quite hilarious as the wife and the chemistry between the two actually works (she is not a consummate shrew). This film is worth watching if you are a fan of Hong Kong cinema or Stephen Chow. It does not work as well as other films of his so I would rather recommend Kung Fu Hustle or Shaolin Soccer before this.

While Johnnie To did direct this film, this was before he started his auteur period and Chow was so immensely popular that success of the film was dependent on him so he had a lot of control of the production. Also, when watching this film it feels like a Chow film albeit a bit more static then much of his acting oeuvre. From Beijing With Love is a great example of an earlier Chow movie that translates rather well (for those with a certain style of humor).

My Left Eye Sees Ghosts (2002: Hong Kong: ***/****):
I had seen half of this film before on a now defunct cable channel called AZN. At the time I had no idea who directed it, but found it interesting enough to watch (and remember) until I had to leave. A few years later going over the oeuvre of Johnnie To, I noticed that he was the co-director of this comedy/drama (not really horror so a lot more like Ghost Town than The Eye) with Wai Ka-Fai (they codirected Fulltime Killer and Mad Detective too).

This film does play well with the genre though it is more focused on humor and the tragic love elments of May Ho (Sammi Cheng: Infernal Affairs) who lost her newly wed rich husband whom she had known for a total of seven days. She is taken in by the rich family who doesn't trust her but has to tolerate her since she received a huge amount of money, house, cars etc… after the husbands death. She is not happy with the arrangement and while drunk smashes her dead husbands car. This accident injures her body and her left eye and after she wakes up she (of course) can see dead people.

She is haunted by a grown up boy (Lau Ching-Wan: Running Out of Time) who died at sea and was a classmate of hers who eventually becomes her friend.

Fans of Johnnie To's triad films might be a bit perplexed by this movie, but to make you feel at home there is plethora of his regular actors such as Lam Suet, Simon Yam, Lau Ching-Wan and several others that populate this film. But the duo of Wai (he does not get enough credit on many of the To films) and To are quite comfortable in this genre. It doesn't always feel as fresh as the newly dead and the Taoist elements might confuse some western viewers, but overall it is a solid film that sometimes dwells too far in the romantic tragedy genre but surprisingly that works too.

Yesterday Once More (2004: Hong Kong: **½/****):
The third in a series of romantic comedies staring Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng was the least successful at the box office in Hong Kong following Needing You (2000) and Love on a Diet (2001). The previous two were co-directed with Wai Ka-fai and while I have only seen Love on a Diet there is definitely a stylist difference one that fits in more of the To's auteur direction and themes. This film is more languid, more nuanced, less commercial, but is much more uneven then Love on a Diet (that film feels mostly like an American romantic comedy with the help of the special effects team from The Nutty Professor and I rate that film slightly higher ***/****).

The story centers around two professional thieves Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng who divorce at the beginning of the film for an unknown reason only to find themselves still in love as the years go by. Sammi is engaged to a rich momma's boy, but only because she is interested in his jewelry. Andy's character (they are never named) is jealous and decides to steal the very jewel she is interested in (causing the breakup of Sammi and her beau). The rest of the movie deals with their relationship until a tragic fact about one of their fates is learned.

The movie is quite beautiful to look as the locations vary from Hong Kong to Italy and the characters intrigued me (and often irritated me); however, the biggest fault was with the most unsatisfying ending since well Running On Karma.

While ultimately this movie fails as an aesthetic cohesive whole it has many interesting elements that would later be used in Sparrow to better effect. While Sparrow had references to French Cinema, this movie had several quite obvious homages to the original The Thomas Crown Affair from the introductory scenes reminiscent of the multi-splitscreen style used in that film to the relationship and the characters to one specific interview technique used in original film.
Under Construction:
My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

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#3 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 11:37 AM

more capsules:

Throw Down (2004: Hong Kong: ***½/****)
If I had not listened to others and previously watched some of the brilliant oeuvre of Johnnie To then a recent watch of The Executions (co-directed by Tony Ching Siu-Tung) might have prevented me to delve into other of To's movies. Luckily I knew better and anticipated Throw Down with furious glee.

Released right after Breaking News that same year (neither one was a box office hit, yet his next film Yesterday Once More, which I have not seen, would be a more popular film with the HK audience though is not talked about as much today.) Though this does fit with To's production company Milkyway Image (HK) Ltd. modus operandi of filming popular movies to help fund his personal projects. I tend to prefer to personal features.

Louis Koo Tin-Lok (Election, Rob-B-Hood) stars as Szeto To an enigmatic ex-Judo expert who mysteriously quite competition to drink, gamble and stumble his way through life. He meets two strangers who quickly integrate themselves into his life: one wants to be well known actress or singer and needs a singing gig in his club (Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi: My Left Eye Sees Ghosts), the other is an up-and-coming judo fighter who just wants to fight him (Aaron Kwok: The Storm Riders). Szeto To just wants to gamble.

Like most of To's movies there are superb scenes and idiosyncratic characters which work best when combined. There is the triad member Boss Savage (To regular Eddie Cheung) who mumbles disparaging remarks to his opponents when playing video games, has a nasty streak to people who are late and forgives Szeto for stealing his money over and over again. There is mentally deficient yet loyal Jing (a character very reminiscent to one in Shower) who greats everyone with the same phrase and there is Lee Kong (Tony Leung Ka-fai: Ashes of Time) who is the most proficient expect of Judo that is still upset that he did not get to fight Szeto. A great scene with him is one similar to Red Beard where he dislocates one triad members arm after another.

Oh such a fun film. Made as a homage to Akira Kurosawa's Sanshiro Sugata and Kurosawa in general, it still feels like a To film. It is quirky and quite eccentric but for fans of Johnnie To's more personal films like PTU and The Mission they will find this one of his better movies.

Breaking News (2004: Hong Kong: ***/****):
Starting off with a brilliant six minute plus crane tracking shot to display an awesome gun battle, Breaking News breaks out with a bang. This scene has been compared to Orson Welles's Touch of Evil opener in other reviews, but I will mention again that this shot does seem inspired by that exemplary example, though this one is a bit more shaky and clumsy. Unfortunately, while I did like this film, much of the rest of the film does not match the tenacity and with weak characterizations feels more like a technical exercise. But with every Johnnie To directed film there is much to glean and embrace.

Inspector Cheung (Nick Cheung Ka-Fai was Jet one of my favorite characters in Election 1 and 2) is an impressive one-dimensional character whose monomania in wanting to capture Chat Yat Yuen (Richie Ren Zian-Qi: Gorgeous, Exiled) is never quite explained though his Terminator inspired character still intrigued me. His boss Rebecca Fong, who is trying to use the media to her advantage has several angles that are never quite explored like her possible relationship with Asst. Cmdr. Wong (Simon Yam in another cameo) or her feud with Cheung (though with his no nonsense Inspector Callahan demeanor that angle could easily be explained).

Cheung ends up trapping the set of gangsters (with their never-ending supply of grenades) and force them to hold up in an apartment complex. Unbeknowest to everyone there is another Triad set hiding in that same apartments.

The media angle and aspect that while prevalent in much of the film is never really used satisfactory. It is not realist and ultimately has no message.

However, there are many excellent scenes like when two different triad leaders cook a meal together for themselves and their hostages (its sounds strange, but it is vintage Johnnie To) and the performance of Lam Suet (a regular in To films) who plays a scared but loving parent being held hostage. The ending chase/gun/battle scene is also stellar and brilliantly done.

Election (2005: HK: ***½/****):
My initial viewings of Johnnie To directed films had been less than stellar with plebian offerings of The Heroic Trio (1993), decent offerings of Fulltime Killer (2001) and a very good film in Running Out of Time (1999). I took a long break from his directorial features and came back with PTU (2003) and was astonished to find that I really enjoyed that film (the To fanboys had actually been right). So I was looking forward to Election and actually found it to be interesting, exiting and well-made.

The election in the film refers to a traditional election that happens every two years for the Wo Sing Triad, when two up-and-comers are vying for the top position between a charismatic hot head Big D (Tony Leung Ka-Fai, The Myth) and patient calculating Lok (Simon Yam, PTU). Leung's performance is a bit over-the-top, but Yam's is quite brilliant (in his somewhat stereotypical demeanor) in his calm persona.

Sublimely directed by To with a nice musical score (somewhat reminiscent of PTU, but I think better since it doesn't overuse certain guitar effects), somewhat muddy script, but overall quite a brilliant film.

Some comments: David Chiang (from Shaw Brothers fame) gets a small role in this film as an anti-Triad officer (noticed his name in the credits and went back to seen him, completely surprised me).

Also, be careful of what you say when you fish with your boss.

Triad Election (aka Election 2: 2006: HK: ***/****):
Election 2 is a solid sequel to its superior predecessor. I feel this film sometimes strays too much from a satisfactory cohesive whole that the first worked so well at delivering on. Simon Yam's character so important in the first seems underused, less panache and less bright than the first film. There is one great moment (referencing the first film) where he has a smile and stares at the camera for a quick second or two (if you had not watched the original you would have not gotten this in-joke).

To has an interesting way of inserting humor into the scenes, the silly masks, Lam Suet having martial issues, Lam being forced to well watch it, and Mark Cheng's Bo character asking for more money (even if the last time seemed a bit forced).

There is definitely one scene (reminiscent of Fargo, but goes much further, once again showing that a true triad member should not allow himself to be captured) that is definitely shocking, grotesque and a bit bothersome. But it did show the lengths the Jimmy Lee (Louis Koo) character would go to accomplish his goal (in many ways Koo is reminiscent of Michael Corleone).

I still feel Election was a movie that probably did not need a sequel to it, though the premise is easily remade (over and over again, especially since the election is every two years). Since Jet (Nick Cheung Ka-Fai, one of my favorite characters in this movie) is still alive and so is Kun, there is definitely the possibility of a third.

Note: the trailer showed scenes that were deleted from the movie (possibly showing something that might have happened to Kun)

I need to start doing some full reviews again.
Under Construction:
My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

“Empty your bladder of that bitter black urine you call coffee.” – The Tick

My HK movie reviews
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#4 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 12:07 PM

Moved to more pertinent place...

Sparrow (2008)

There are many facets to the brilliantly diverse career of director Johnnie To, but within these aspects there are many similarities that adhere to auteur sensibilities. He does not direct the same film over and over again but he has many thematic overtures and plot devices that will consistently turn up -- not always in the same film though. Sparrow is no different in that respect though it feels unique in To's oeuvre. Like PTU it was a personal project that took over three years to make. He would film a scene whenever he had the money and/or whenever he could get the principal actors to work when they were not busy with other projects. Its closest equivalent would be Yesterday Once More which deals with thieves and has a few similar characters and situations. While Yesterday Once More was influenced by the American crime caper especially the original The Thomas Crown Affair, this film was created to invoke a feeling of French New Wave cinema (in interviews To states specifically Umbrellas of Cherbourg as an influence). It is one of To's most lighthearted movies (not counting some of the silly romantic comedies he has co-directed or his earliest efforts like The Eighth Happiness) and one of his better directed efforts.

In Cantonese-slang the term Sparrow means a pickpocket. It is also a bird that one day decides to show up in Kei's (Simon Yam: The Mission, PTU) apartment while he was sewing. The pickpocket is Kei who is in charge of three other semi-competent thieves (this is the most common aspect of To's movies – the team and its dynamics). As soon as the sparrow enters his life and he debates the meaning of this with his partners a women enters their life. Chung Chun Lei (Kelly Lin: Fulltime Killer, Mad Detective) a mainland expatriate (whom is similar to Mona in Throw Down) bewitches all four separately and indirectly gets them beat up by associates of her old rich patron who controls her life and has every moment of her monitored. Mr. Fu Kim Tong (Lo Hoi-pan: PTU, Throw Down) is a cigar-smoking leader of a nefarious business and was once a great pickpocket himself. He has Chung's passport and even though he offers his fortune after he dies she does not want to be caged and wants her freedom.

It is eventually their pity on Chung and not her initial coquettishness that wins three of the four to help her get her freedom. Kei is the odd man out until a specific encounter with Mr. Fu threatens his manhood, livelihood and sense-of-honor.

While this film may be a bit laconic for some I found Sparrow to be one of my favorite films of 2008. It is beautifully shot, has an interesting characterization for Simon Yam and there are several sagacious scenes. One of these moments is where all four men ride the same bike (you have to see this, it is filmed quite beautifully) which symbolizes not only the team effort for this film (one of the most common themes in all of Johnnie To's oeuvre) but the actors themselves who destroyed several bikes while making this scene and spent so much time learning to balance while riding. Pickpocketing works better as a team effort (and you can certainly rake in more money), but you have to be in sync as well as completely trust your companions. Another great scene shows them put there skills together much like a similar scene in Robert Bresson's Pickpocket. One would expect there would be much more in common between these two films because of the subject matter but the underlying themes (with the exception of redemption) are quite different.

The funniest scene involves all four pickpockets trying to corner Chun Lei so they can get a better explanation on why they got beat-up because of her. They get stuck in an elevator (well three of them do; how they lose one of them is part of the hilarity) with two movers who are carrying a large glass case. The two movers make the mistake of interfering with the three much more dangerous characters.

The most sublime scene in the movie is the edifying climax involving a pickpocket duel amongst the rain and umbrellas. It is filmed (the filming alone on this scene took over two weeks) with such beautiful editing and splendorous slow-motion grandeur that you realize this Hong Kong and French hybrid works astoundingly well. There are several subtle moments to it so it helps to view it a few times.

While the film is not perfect and portrays several of the characters as more ornamental then full-bodied humans, I found Sparrow to be a fun and rich experience. It is full of jaunty incidents with superficial references to various French film auteurs from Jean-Pierre Melville (of course the birdcages in this film also make you think of John Woo who is also a Melville fan) to Francis Truffaut. But To does this with a mixture of themes and situations that are important to him from team spirit, rooftop encounters*, wayward souls and Lam Suet. Johnnie To uses the splendid older Hong Kong locations to great effect (one of the main reasons he made this film was to document older buildings of Hong Kong that may not be around much longer because of the constant creative destruction and renovation) – this helps with the feeling of timelessness in the movie. This is especially evident when much of the stills through the credits show the buildings. Plus the music which is another hybrid of Eastern and Western influences by Xavier Jamaux and Fred Avril (whom To worked with in Mad Detective) which evokes a feeling of quirky nostalgia for a time and place that has never existed but in the mind of Johnnie To. That is one of the many reasons I love this film.

The US DVD for this is an R1 Tai Seng/Universe release (that should be exactly the same as the R3 Universe release) that has no commentary but several worthwhile interviews with Simon Yam, Lam Ka Tung, Johnnie To and Kelly Lin, a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival, a making of and a Gala Premiere.

* The rooftop is an important allegory in Hong Kong film. Many times the only way to escape the busy populace is to go up and obtain a measure of humanity by being a godlike place where you view the ants below. It is also an escape where you can either find another building to hop to (common in American urban action films) or find the ultimate escape by death (Infernal Affairs, Royal Warriors).
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My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

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#5 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 05:19 PM

terse comments on:

The Big Heat (1988: Andrew Kam, Johnnie To, Hong Kong) ***/****

It is always fun to view a film that initially you were hesitant on watching but ended up being a solid, well structured movie with plenty of gun shots, exploding body parts and people on fire. Fans of Ringo Lam and John Woo will especially like this somewhat unknown action piece from the heyday of Hong Kong action cinema.

Waise Lee (A Better Tomorrow) portrays Wong Wai-pong a laconic cop who has nerve damage (probably from shooting too much) that is preventing him from clenching his fist so he has trouble firing his gun (the opposite of itchy trigger finger). However, a death of his former colleague from drug traffickers keeps him on the force, he separates from his fiancé and he will soon forth serve furious vengeance on his new enemies. To help combat these he teams up with a rookie, a Malaysian agent and Hong Kong stalwart Phillip Kwok (Hard Boiled).

You know what you are getting into when the opening shot is a dream of a drill piercing a man's hand. This is not a typical "bullet ballet", but one mixed with a horror sentiment and a police procedural. The English title was taken from Fritz Lang's film, though I cannot compare the two until I actually see that movie.

While there are many facets to this film that makes it feel like a Johnnie To production ( team approach, little bits of humor) The Big Heat really was a collaborative effort (the production company Cinema City was known as a company by committee that emulated Hollywood practices). To has stated that he took over from a fired director (most likely Andrew Kam) and that he was replaced later by Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-tung. To has also said that the over-the-top violence and gore was done because of Tsui Hark. Because of this some critics have stated that this movie really belongs to Hark – though I strongly disagree with that because there are so many touches that feel like a To movie.

There is no R1 edition of this film, but there are plenty of R0 editions that vary wildly in quality. The only one that is not OOP is a Joy Sales release which is the latest and the best version out there. The print has suffered a bit and the subtitles could surely be improved but it is not enough to distract from the visual experience.
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1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

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#6 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 03:40 PM

Expect the Unexpected (1998: Patrick Yau) **½/****

While this film is credited to Patrick Yau Tat-Chi, several interviews afterwards with Johnnie To (this is explicitly mentioned in Teo's book on To) have stated that Yau was relieved of duties during the project and To finished the film. When watching this movie it is quite evident of all the themes and parallels with To's other films that it certainly fits in his oeuvre including the team theme, coincidence theme, regular To actors, allegory to Mainland China with post-handover anxiety and of course it is released under his and Wai Ka-fai's label Milkyway.

The initial antagonists are a bunch of inept crooks from the mainland who botch a robbery attempt by not only failing to steal anything, but fail to use masks and their identify is caught on camera. They do get away though one (Lam Suet) hides out in a apartment complex that happens to hold much more vicious and competent criminals who are currently holding two women captive (this coincidence of two sets of criminals crossing paths in an apartment complex would later be repeated in To's Breaking News). The cops then find out about these criminals and they soon become the focus of their investigation.

The detectives Sam (Lau Chin-wan: Mad Detective), Ken (Simon Yam: PTU), Macy (Ruby Wong: Running Out of Time) are part of a close knit team that are now in pursuit of these vicious invaders who are terrorizing. The film deals nicely with the relationships between these individuals though it does try to get a little too tricky (keeping up with the title) with who likes who.

While the film is not gore-filled there are a few very implied nasty scenes that make you wonder why you are watching this movie in the first place. The humor does balance it out, but the overall feel to this movie is nihilism.

The film suffers a bit from allegory that gets in the way of the story. This is particularly noticeable at the ending. There are two particular meanings to the ending: the obvious one that fits with the film's title and the secondary which is an illusion to the Mainland government since this was filmed shortly after the takeover. If I ever do a longer and proper review I would be sure to add my thoughts (complete with spoiler tags).

I'm still not sure if I would recommend it. First it is hard to get as only OOP copies exist. I have the Universe R0 release which looks decent, has the normal problems with subtitles and has extras that are not subtitled (this is extremely frustrating because Johnnie To is interviewed on here and even has the questions asked of him in English, but no subtitles on the reply). Second there are better To films to watch that are more refined and do not quite suffer the pangs and arrows of outrageous fancy.
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My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

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#7 bobham80

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 04:55 PM

Election is now available via netflix play it now option. Do you recommend it as a good starting point for Jonnie To?

#8 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 05:21 PM

Election is now available via netflix play it now option. Do you recommend it as a good starting point for Jonnie To?


For his triad dramas yes it is a good pick (do not expect gun action in Election). If you are more into action-oriented films (those these two selections have more than just action) I would start off with Exiled or Running Out of Time. Highly Recommended films like The Mission and PTU I think work better after seeing several of his films and several other films from the HK action and triad genres since they play with and against convention.

FYI: To has stated that his auteur career started with Loving You.

Quick mention of Johnnie To in this latest Tarantino interview (which reminds me I need to get Too Many Ways to Be Number 1).

QT: "But the ones I loved the most were from foreign countries—the Hong Kong gangster movies, [like] Johnnie To or Too Many Ways to Be Number 1."

Here's QT quoted on the cover of Election:

Posted Image
Under Construction:
My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
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#9 bobham80

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 07:14 PM

Thanks I'll put off watching it until I can check out some of his other films.

Here's QT quoted on the cover of Election:

Posted Image



I wonder how many of the Tartan films quote QT on the cover.

#10 Lawrence

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 09:24 AM

I finally broke my To cherry this weekend with Election. I was hugely impressed with pretty much everything about the film, the main thing was the pacing being so slow (for this type of film), which made a huge change for me. I was surprised I didn't really get lost amongst all the characters and who was working for who etcetera. Nice to see that Hong Kong films have progressed beyond the whole two guns in slo mo thing that bored me to the point of giving up Heroic Bloodshed films somewhere in the mid nineties. So for a minute there I was thing I would become a fan of J-To (God I hope no one ever refers to him with that moniker), but then I watched The Mission and found it lacked everything that I loved so much in Election. It was okay, looked great, wonderful cast but the central premise was a bit meh for me, and ran out of steam quite early. The end section of the film felt a bit bolted on just to pad out the running time. Still I've got Election 2 to watch this weekend and I can't wait. :D

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#11 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 10:17 AM

To be fair to Hong Kong films there have always been comedies, social commentaries, martial art films and dramas during the whole Heroic Bloodshed era (which was influenced by the films of Chang Cheh and his similar themes along the homosocial aspects). So I'm thinking you are talking about the John Woo, Ringo Lam movies and their influence which with martial art movies was the majority of films released beyond HK. I've been studying different genres of HK of late so I can state that there are many wonderful movies that have yet to seem mainstream acceptance (widespread DVD release) such as the Michael Hui comedies, the Ann Hui dramas, early Tsui Hark genre mixes etc...

The Mission is probably one of the more important Hong Kong films of the 90s though while I loved it (and Duke did too; also was ranked the 14th most important Chinese language film in a 2005 Hong Kong Critic poll) I can understand some viewers not (this is never the first couple of films I would recommend . This is a film I will eventually do a full length review to do it justice. But the reason why it was important because it shown the Hong Kong cinema that a completely different take on the triad film could be done with not only offbeat characters, but use of stagnant time and atypical situations (it has one of the most interesting shoot outs I have ever seen).

If you do not like this film then I would think you might want to stay away from PTU (which I also love but has a very offbeat pace; Clyde did not like this film). But I do not want to discourage others from watching The Mission. I feel there is much to be gleaned from that movie.

Johnnie To should be called To-Jo.
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My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
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#12 Lawrence

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 12:00 PM

^
I didn't mean to lump every HK film in with Heroic Bloodshed, I meant more that is what I was watching back then, but it became a drag after a while. Of course there are always a myriad of differing genres going on at any time in any country. It's always like that, it's only once you start scratching under the surface of what people find typical that you find some true gems. I've found this personally a lot with music and film wise with British cinema of the sixties and seventies.

Still to get back on track if I found Election wonderful where should I turn to next? Is Election 2 a good move for me? I would like to see some more of his 'action' films too, since it's not like I hated the Mission, it was more of a disappointment after Election.

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#13 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 12:07 PM

^
I didn't mean to lump every HK film in with Heroic Bloodshed, I meant more that is what I was watching back then, but it became a drag after a while. Of course there are always a myriad of differing genres going on at any time in any country. It's always like that, it's only once you start scratching under the surface of what people find typical that you find some true gems. I've found this personally a lot with music and film wise with British cinema of the sixties and seventies.

Still to get back on track if I found Election wonderful where should I turn to next? Is Election 2 a good move for me? I would like to see some more of his 'action' films too, since it's not like I hated the Mission, it was more of a disappointment after Election.


That reminds me I need to learn much more on British Cinema (I've done better this year, but still need to work off some British lists). Yea any genre (even if you love it) can get old if you burn out on it (MA, triad, Heroic Bloodshed, wuxia, chambara). On a side note, if you get a chance to watch any Chang Cheh Wuxia films from the 60s you can easily see the influence it had on John Woo.

So far I'm the only person I know that though the second film was not quite as good as the first (will explain why later after you watch it). I think Exiled would be a great next film or if you want an old school shoot-em-up go for The Big Heat (named after the Fritz Lang film, but not because of plot) then go back to Election 2. Films like Sparrow and Throw Down don't quite fit genre conventions but are great films in themselves (not saying there isn't connections to earlier Johnnie To films, but you don't need to know them to enjoy the films). Heck watch Running Out of Time (as long as you like Andy Lau as an actor).

Has anyone here watched any of his comedies? Those are probably the least talked about from his films.

Edit: Yes Duke :D
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My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

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#14 Duke Togo

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 12:20 PM

Still to get back on track if I found Election wonderful where should I turn to next? Is Election 2 a good move for me? I would like to see some more of his 'action' films too, since it's not like I hated the Mission, it was more of a disappointment after Election.

Whatever Master says next, I think you should see Election 2, though I would have to assume he would agree with me on this. :D It is a proper sequel, a bit of a do-over really, but I found the premise a bit more complicated/interesting for some reason, particularly in the characters' motives. PTU as Master implied is probably the most odd To in your unwatched, but I liked that too so maybe save it for last? To be honest, the only thing I found odd about The Mission was the suicide inducing score, and I would seriously pay big bucks to see redone ala Legend. Another one I found odd was Throwdown, though I loved that too. If you want To action I can think of no better place to start than Exiled. It isn't total action, but there are some great stretches where the pace stays quick, and it has this great western (proper) feel to it all.

Edit: Damn, Master must have been ready to finish his reply as soon as I started. :D

#15 Lawrence

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 01:10 PM

^
Well Election 2 this weekend then and then I keep going from there.

One little thing that did make me smile in The Mission, was during the huge shoot out at the old warehouse there was a shot of one of 'our guys' shooting with a gun in each hand. Which made me groan and roll my eyes, but then as a great touch it's revealed that he was only doing that so that another (I'm sorry I can't recall any character names - me dumb) one of 'our guys', could sneak around behind the 'bad guys' without being missed. A small but perfect moment.

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#16 Lawrence

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Posted 30 September 2009 - 12:59 PM

So I watched Election 2 at the weekend and as I suspected I thought it was easily as good as the coffee in Twin Peaks (damn fine for those who don't remember). Best moment for me was the obvious nod to the previous films fishing scene. So I'm thinking I'm just going to work my way around those two films and see what I think of the films from the same period, does that seem sensible?

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#17 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 30 September 2009 - 01:03 PM

So I watched Election 2 at the weekend and as I suspected I thought it was easily as good as the coffee in Twin Peaks (damn fine for those who don't remember). Best moment for me was the obvious nod to the previous films fishing scene. So I'm thinking I'm just going to work my way around those two films and see what I think of the films from the same period, does that seem sensible?


Well that means either go for the previous Throw Down (notice I didn't state Yesterday Once More) or the next one Exiled? Have you been reading my capsule reviews here (and or longer ones)? :D
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My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

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Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

“Empty your bladder of that bitter black urine you call coffee.” – The Tick

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#18 Lawrence

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Posted 30 September 2009 - 01:07 PM

Well that means either go for the previous Throw Down (notice I didn't state Yesterday Once More) or the next one Exiled? Have you been reading my capsule reviews here (and or longer ones)? :D


Nope haven't, but I will. I see if I can borrow either of the above from friends. Cheers for the advice (as always). I'm there if you need help with British Cinema. :P

1 2r 3r 4r 5 6r 7 8 9 10r 11r 12 13 14r 15r 16r 17r 18r 19r 20 21 22 23 24r 25 26 27 28 29r 30r 31 32 33 35r 36 37 38r 39r 40 41 42 43 44 44r 45 46 47 48r 49 51 52r 53r 54 55 56 56r 57r 58 59 60 61 62 63 64r 65 66 67 68 69 70 72 73 74 75 76 76r 77 78 79 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 93r 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112r 113 114 115 116 116r 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 222 223 224 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310 311 312 313 314 315 316 317 319 320 321 322 323 324 325 326 327 328 329 330 331 332 333 334 335 336 337 338 340 341 342 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 354 355 356 357 358 359 360 361 362 363 364 365 366 367 368 369 370 371 372 373 374 375 376 377 378 379 380 381 382 383 384 385 386 387 388 391 392 393 394 395396 397 398 399 400 401 402 403 404 405 406 407 408 409 410 411 412 413 414 415 416 417 418 419 420 421 422 423 424 425 426 427 428 429 430 431 432 433 434 435 436 437 438 439 440 441 442 443 444 445 446 447 448 449 450 451 452 453 455 456 457 458 459 460 461 462 463 464 465 466 467 468 469 470 471 472 473 474 475 476 477 478 479 480 481 482 483 484 485 486 487 488 489 490 491 493 494 495 496 497 498 499 500 501 502 503 504 505 506 507 508 509 510 511 514 515 516 519 521 522 523 524 525 526 528 529 530 531 532 533 534 535 536 537 538 539 540 541 542 543 544 545 546 547 548 549 550 551 552 553 554 555 556 557 558 559 560 561 562 563 564 565 566 567 568 569 570 571 572 573 574 575 576 577 578 579 580 581 582 583 584 585 586 587 588 589 590 591 592 593 594 595 596 597 598 599 600 601 602 603 604 605 606 607 608 609 610 611 612 613 614 615 616 617 618 619 620 621 624 627 629 630 631 632 633 634 636 637 638 639 640 641 642 643 645 646 647 649 650 651 652 653 654 656 657 658 659 660 667 668 669 671 676 677 679 680 681 682 683 691 692 693 696 700 704 707 708 709 710 711 712 720 721 724 725 728 732 733 738 750 751 752 753 754 756 759 760 764 771 772 787 790 791 793 796 797 Eclipse 1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 17 18 19 25 28 Criterion - 685


#19 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 13 October 2009 - 12:09 PM

Latest Johnnie To interview at Hollywood Reporter (I will at a link at the top too).

Not much new, he talks about Death of a Hostage being his next project. Red Circle is talked about, but will it ever be done?

On his:

Selected filmography: "Sparrow" (2008), "Election" (2005), "Exiled" (2006), "Breaking News" (2004), "Love on a Diet" (2001), "The Mission" (1999), "Loving You" (1995), "All About Ah Long" (1989)

Out of that bunch I still have not seen Loving You (I only know of a R3 edition of this).
Under Construction:
My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

“Empty your bladder of that bitter black urine you call coffee.” – The Tick

My HK movie reviews
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#20 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 05:05 PM

The Longest Nite (1998: Patrick Yau Tat-chi) ***/****:

Before I was ready to watch Mad Detective (hopefully this week before the 2008 S&S deadline), I needed to see The Longest Nite which has several parallel themes. This is an early film in the Milkyway catalogue which was officially directed by Patrick Yau but later it was found out that Johnnie To took over directing duties rather early in the production (To mentions this again in Stephen Teo's book Director in Action). His touch can be seen throughout this film from its pacing, actors (of course Milkyway stock) and other cinematic references.

The Longest Nite is a labyrinth of plot twists and character juxtapositions that sometimes get lost amongst the beautiful cinematography (Ko Chiu-Lam and another regular employee in Cheng Siu-Keung) and the nihilistic and sadistic content (with some definite echoes of the Election series). What is missing most is any character development or motivation.

Sam (Tony Leung Chiu-wai: Happy Together, Hero) is a crooked Macau detective who is trying to find a mysterious triad member (Lau Ching-wan: Expect the Unexpected, Mad Detective) during the background of a possible triad war. Mr Lung, an elderly triad leader who resides elsewhere has control of the region. Two factions have rumored to agree to join forces to try to take over the region from Mr Lung. Sam tries to prevent this war but after a headless corpse is found in his apartment with a number scrawled in his hand he soon finds himself in over his head.

One of the most interesting scenes takes place in a warehouse (a homage to Lady From Shanghai and Enter the Dragon) where there is a duel between the two main characters (I feel it is used more effectively than the analogous scene in Fulltime Killer – though I do like that too). The use of lighting, shadows and placement of cameras are used superlatively for these doppelgangers.

Fans of Hong Kong triad/cop films should definitely seek this out. Just be warned that there are no redeemable characters and the mood of melancholy permeates every corner of the movie. Just do not peek what's in that duffel bag.
Under Construction:
My Criterion Collection (408; I Own and Have Watched):
1-16, 18, 19, 20, 21(2nd), 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51(1st & 2nd), 52, 52, 53, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86. 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151(1st), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 177, 180, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 237, 239, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 260, 263, 266, 267, 268, 271, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 297, 298, 300(2D), 301, 302, 304, 305, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 335, 336, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 351, 352, 353, 354, 357, 358, 359, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 378, 379, 380, 383, 385, 386, 387, 388, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 402, 404, 405, 408, 409, 410, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 437, 439, 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 451, 453, 455, 456, 457, 459, 460, 461, 462, 465, 470, 475, 476, 478, 481, 482, 487, 490, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 503, 505, 512, 524, 525, 526, 528, 529, 530, 531, 539, 540, 543, 556, 565, 572, 578, 579, 580, 586, 596, 650, 664, 677

Previous Editions: 2,
Eclipse: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 23, 26, 33

“Empty your bladder of that bitter black urine you call coffee.” – The Tick

My HK movie reviews
My Amazon Reviews




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