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To Kei-Fung, Johnnie


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#61 Duke Togo

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 10:31 AM

I found PTU to be the most strange and unpredictable out of those you have already seen. If you like these sort of unexpected directions To goes in, see Throwdown. It is just...so...'huh?', but in a good way.

#62 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 11:09 AM

I found PTU to be the most strange and unpredictable out of those you have already seen. If you like these sort of unexpected directions To goes in, see Throwdown. It is just...so...'huh?', but in a good way.


Throwdown is probably my favorite To (I have a small review in this thread; I need to do a full one sometime), but it is a bit difficult sometimes where you have to pay attention to details because they will only be told once.

But PTU was the film that got me into To. Before I had seen several of his earlier films and was not overall impressed (after going back over many more of his early films, well I'm still not impressed :D, though he has good ones here and there in the 1980s).
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

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#63 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 01:07 PM

Johnnie To Vows to Put Down the Gun (December 2, 2012: JayneStars.com)

This is more about him filming in Mainland than actually putting down the gun in film. He does want to eventually go into more films that are less gun-oriented.

The Mainland censors get more strict all the time so I am worried a little by what might happen to his style.
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

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#64 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 01:04 PM

Johnnie To Talks ELECTION 3, Retirement and Five Films He Has Put The Most Effort Into Making by Hugo Ozman (May 21, 2013)

2. To has also disclosed that there are only five films that he has really put in a lot of effort into making, and they are The Mission, Exiled, Life Without Principle, Sparrow and PTU. While these are all fine films, I find it surprising that he has not included some of his other great films such as Running On Karma and Mad Detective (both made with his long-time collaborator Wai Ka Fai) in the list.


Funny that the writer says Running on Karma is one of his other great films, when it is one of my least favorite of To's latter films. I still need to see Life Without Principle, which I've had in my watch pile for ages. Now To's statement should be taken with a grain of salt.

His new film is Blind Detective which I believe is at Cannes.
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

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#65 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 03:54 PM

Mixing business with pleasure: Johnnie To’s DRUG WAR by David Bordwell (July 8, 2013)


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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#66 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 22 January 2014 - 02:27 PM

Drug War (2013: Johnnie To) China/Hong Kong ***½/****
 
“Without coincidences, there would be no stories.” – Nick Cheung in Breaking News
 
I think it behooves anyone working on a best of 2013 list to make sure you have seen this one.  Johnnie To is one of my favorite current auteurs and I generally like anything from his coproduction company Milkyway. Do not be surprised if this is going to be on my top 10 2013 list of film -- which I will eventually make around the middle of this year since I am behind as usual with newer movies. I had some trepidation going into this because of the Mainland censor rules, but I noticed a lot of positive reviews as well that this made several film critics top 10 lists.
 
In the prologue you see Hong Kong citizen Timmy Choi Tin-ming (Louis Koo: Throw Down) driving his car erratically throwing up with burns on his face while the Orwellian omnipresent cameras film his movements.  What you do not know at this point is he is fleeing a meth lab explosion which killed his wife and her brothers.  This takes place in Jinhai (I believe this is Jinghai a municipality of Tianjin) as well as in the Heping District. Meanwhile two simultaneous events are happening: there is an undercover sting led by the Stetson wearing Captain Zhang Lei (the Stetson reminds me of both Jean-Pierre Melville and Lau Ching-wan in A Hero Never Dies) and two out-of-area cops (fromYuejiang) are following a suspected meth truck of Bill Li’s.  
 
After being captured by the police, Timmy is able to talk into “redeeming” himself if he turns informer.  He will do anything to avoid the death penalty for his meth manufacturing. He tells of an upcoming meeting between manufacturer front Li Shuchang and ebullient distributer HaHa.  This leads to a fascinating set of scenes where Zhang inserts himself as a fake proxy pretending to be both HaHa and Li Shuchang to gain trust from both sides.  But what starts off as a police procedural ends up a mental battle of wills between Zhang and Timmy.  While Timmy is corroborating, he of course, has other plans.  But how far he will go and what he will do helps make this a fascinating film. Johnnie To fans will also be wondering when Lam Suet will show up.
 
In the end you get the feeling that one cannot escape the reach of the Mainland law with their vast resources of money and people.  But you also get the feeling that no one is going to stop trying either.  This is a starkly bleak film not just in theme but in the cinematography from longtime collaborators Cheung Siu-keung and To Hung-mo as well.  Johnnie To has partially attributed this to him working more about content passing the censors and less time on visual style.
 
The end shoot-out that resembles Expect the Unexpected has been much heralded and rightly so.  It is sometimes discombobulating in a way that sometimes you forget the dichotomy between who is bad and who is good.  But there was an earlier shoot out with the Mute brothers that was so fantastic that I had to re-watch a few times after finishing the film.  It also literally reminds me of the title Expect the Unexpected where I did not expect them to be that effective as they are calm and focused like the emotionless hit-man in The Boondock Saints.  Since it is mainly from their perspective it also puts you in their mind-set and makes the government the aggressors and trespassers.  In this film he tends to foster the humanity of the antagonists more than the police. Film professor David Bordwell makes a salient point in his essay on the film (link below): “Yet the result humanizes the crooks more than the cops. Timmy mourns his family; we don’t know if Captain Zhang has one.”
 
I do think if he was to make this in Hong Kong and not under the SAPPRFT (State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television) rules there would have been a few differences in script as well as tone.  There would have been more ambiguity, especially with the cop character.  There would have been more bloody violence.  I would have expected a more open ending.  In a way it reminds me of film noir movies under the Hays Code.  You knew that while watching the film certain facts were going to be evident.  You know the “bad guys” are not going to get away (and they are from Hong Kong which probably helped sell this to the censors.)  You know the cops are going to be portrayed as good with little to no ambiguity which it makes it difficult to do one of To’s favorite themes -- The psychological Doppleganger.  These reasons are why I would not rank this up with my favorite To films like Election, Sparrow or Throw Down.  Regardless, this is an excellent film and To has a way with being provocative and pushing ideas past the censors.  But like with films under the Hays Code and with past Chinese films that have broached taboo topics with allegory (early Zhang Yimou) it is all in how you present the material. 
 
You have to pay attention in a Johnnie To film.  He often just presents salient information once so if you missed something that can create a misunderstanding later.  Sometimes you are not given all you need to know right away and important plot aspects are revealed later.  It makes his oeuvre a little more difficult than many directors but often a lot more rewarding especially with subsequent viewings.  This film is no exception and is highly recommended and is one of my favorite of 2013.
 
DVD Notes: I saw this on the R1 Well Go release.  On insert of disc: Well Go advertisement, trailers Ip Man: The Final Fight, The Guillotines, New World (those later three are also under Trailers).  There is one Trailer (2.02m), but unfortunately no extras.  Removable English subtitles and two audio tracks (Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital and Mandarin 2.0 Stereo.)
 
Sources:
Mixing business with pleasure: Johnnie To’s DRUG WAR (July 8, 2013) by David Bordwell: Great analysis from David here.  I disagree with Grady Hendrix’s statement “They will save themselves and leave their wives to die…” in dealing with the criminals in two parts: Timmy’s wife might already have been dead and second later on in the last firefight the Gordon Lam character picks up his dead (or dying) wife and is certainly not leaving her behind.  There is a comradeship between the head triad, all except for Timmy.
The Badass Interview: Johnnie To (July 19, 2013): Most interesting points here are that the guns jammed quite a bit while filming and that To (like John Woo) would like to do a musical.
Mr. Beaks Talks DRUG WAR With Johnnie To!  (July 23, 2013): It’s funny the interviewer mentions Angels with Dirty Faces because I thought that as well.  The two reasons I did not put it in my review was because To said he had not seen it and one important aspect of that older film is that Cagney is actually pretending and not serious like Timmy is.
Simon Abrams review (July 26, 2013): I agree with him that the color palette here more approaches a Jean-Pierre Melville film.  He mentions Un Flic though several of Melville’s color films have this bleak look.
Kung Fu Cinema thread
Tianjin Google Maps

Director in Action Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Film (2007) by Stephen Teo

 


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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#67 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 06:03 PM

I hate when I get behind on my reading.  I completely missed this article by David Bordwell Genre ≠ Generic (April 15, 2014).

Here is the relevant Johnnie To info (well worth reading the whole article and to get the links):
 

[on Asian Film Awards] Unhappily, nothing in either contest went to the other outstanding Hong Kong film I saw last year, Johnnie To Kei-fung’s Drug War. It lacked the obvious ambitions and surface sheen of Wong’s film. Many probably took it as merely a solid, efficient genre picture. I believe it’s an innovative and subtle piece of storytelling, as I tried to show here.

Mr. To presses on, as prolific as usual. He has finished shooting a sequel to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, a rom-com that found success in the Mainland, and he’s currently filming a more unusual project in Canton. More on that shortly.

During the festival only one recent To/Milkway film was screened, The Blind Detective (I wrote about that here). But Ferris Lin, a young director from the Academy for Performing Arts, presented a very informative documentary feature on To and his Milkyway company. Boundless takes us behind the scenes on several productions, particularly Life without Principle, Romancing in Thin Air, and Drug War. It also incorporates interviews with To, his collaborators, and critics like Shu Kei.

... [removed info on Boundless the documentary]

 

To continues to challenge himself. He is currently trying something else again, shooting a musical wholly in the studio. Its source, the 2009 play Design for Living, was written by and for the timeless Sylvia Chang Ai-chia. It won success in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Mainland. In the film Sylvia is joined by Chow Yun-fat, thus reuniting the stars of To’s 1989 breakout film All About Ah-Long. The project also indulges the director’s long-felt admiration for Jacques Demy. There is no 2014 film I’m looking forward to more keenly.

 

I'm looking forward to seeing that documentary as well as the next Johnnie To film.  You can see some of To's admiration for Demy in my favorite 2008 release Sparrow.


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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#68 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 11:01 AM

first draft; not much more to do on it though

“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.” – Jean-Luc Godard
 
Too Many Ways To Be No. 1 (1997: Wai Ka-fai: Hong Kong)
 
This is Milkyway’s first official production.*  For fans of Hong Kong movies this is an auspicious start.  For Johnnie To’s co-production company has brought henceforth sagacious cinema that is one of the most unique and personal in cinema today.  This movie still remains one of the most experimental and different in Milkyway’s oeuvre while still retaining personal tropes that are seen in the later films.
 
A time-repeating narrative (forking path – though in this film it feels somewhat like a cinematic “choose your own adventure”) that predates Run Lola Run but is after Groundhog’s Day. It starts off with the ticking of a Tudor timepiece** – an expensive watch owned by Wong Ah Kau (Lau Ching-wan) that has three close-ups in the film each signifying a restart in the story.  It was probably bought in a previous time of prosperity for this rascal as he is now relegated to selling funeral wreaths for money and he is seeing a fortune-teller as the film starts.  You do not get to hear what the seer has to say until the end of the film. Wong is 32, the same age as Bruce Lee when he died, and has not made anything of himself.  He is approached by Bo (Cheung Tat-ming) of the rather incompetent Hung Lok Gang to join him in a meeting to discuss a future job.  His acceptance of this job will lead him to the Mainland in the first story.  If he does not it will lead him to Taiwan in the second story.
 
This is the type of film that so much is intertwined that I am not sure what would be considered a spoiler.  With everything written below you might hesitate on reading further if you are sensitive to spoilers or want to watch the film with not too much information.  But I also noticed that while writing about this it behooves to not do a straight recap of the film.  It is too serpentine and too filled with clever allegories and references.    
 
Going over the third segment it seems that there will be a different result than the previous two (given the dialogue is different.)  It is obvious that the handover metaphor deals with a potential future with either Mainland or Taiwan as a dead-end or crippling event.  I do wonder what the third option would have been.  The fortune teller states that it isn’t either Taiwan or the Mainland but “It is your heart” in how he makes his choice.  Of course by the end of the second story he has both fame and money, but at a price I do not think he was willing to pay. Is his character in a cyclical hell?  Or can he progressively improve his position?  Can Hong Kong improve its position given these two choices?   
 
A negative aspect to this movie is the overuse of the hand-held wide-angle lens (9.8mm same size used in Fallen Angels (1995)) much to To’s chagrin.  Sometimes it works well and gives the film an off-kilter otherworldly feel and is adaptive and playful.  Sometimes it does not like when he does a whole fight scene upside down which was certainly discombobulating and not all the effective as aesthetics or allegory (its use is to demarcate the choice where Wong Ah Kau’s life can go in very different directions.)  It is telling that Wai did not do another solo directorial effort until 2004’s Fantasia. To’s past criticism about the film is correct from a formal standpoint, but there is an anarchy here that works well.
 
The more I go over this, the more I am impressed with the complexity of the plot, the sardonic and often dark humor and how much this does fit into the Milkway portfolio. The comedic lopping off of fingers reminds me of the similar use in The Odd One Dies.  But it is not unique to see similarities between Milkyway films.  Carmen Lee plays a redemptive female in both this and The Odd One Dies (Stephen Teo notes this and the film Loving You which I have not seen.) *** The use of duality is here with an exact Doppleganger with the Taiwan Triad bosses (since they are brothers) and is especially present as there are many similarities between the two paths: yet some subtle and important differences that are eked out on rewatches.  Some characters cannot outrun their destiny (like Lee Fung Yee in Running on Empty): the boss, the drowning of the triad’s brother and the inability to drive.  Some like Wong seem destined to improve among the Multiverse.  Maybe Wai was reading upon String Theory before he wrote this.
 
It is a shame that this is not easily available.  I have waited for years to find an affordable copy of the DVD (20 dollars or under; I would pay more if Criterion released it) or some possible rerelease but to no avail.  So I had to finally take the plunge to watch this on youtube.  That is not something I particularly like doing, but I wanted to watch it for a few reasons including research into Milkyway’s films.  I would easily buy this if it was released here in the United States. I have pretty much given up on Criterion releasing Hong Kong cinema (or even Taiwan or Mainland), but would Shout! possibly be interested in releasing a triad set?  Kino?
 
* While Beyond Hypothermia would have Milkyway’s logo on it To states in Stephen Teo’s monograph on To “That was shot before the company was set up.  It was released after the company was established.” 
 
** While the watch has three close-ups it shows two different times.  In the second path it starts off as broken but at a later time with the tussle with Bo.  It is telling that Bo is apologetic about it because Bo recognizes valuable items.  But it is also important because Carmen Lee’s character buys him a cheaper watch which he tosses aside – possibly because it is a cheaper watch and also wanting to remain seen as a tough guy.  The breaking of watch allegory (trying to stop time) in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury – though Faulkner’s narrative approach is much more difficult than this one which may be hard to believe unless you have read Faulkner.
 
*** Stephen Teo makes a crucial mistake in his book when he writes the film as Too Many Ways To Be Number 1.  The English title is purposefully spelled to use the contraction “No.” (No 1 = no one) You might think of “Too” as two since there are two main life choices this individual has.
 
Sources:
Book: Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Films (2007) by Stephen Teo
Book: Planet Hong Kong (Second Edition: 2011) by David Bordwell
Youtube link
You can finds positive reviews (one of the rare ones for Fonoroff) in: At the Hong Kong Movies: 600 Reviews from 1988 Till the Handover (1999) by Paul Fonoroff and The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1999: A Reference Guide to 1,100 Films Produced by British Hong Kong Studios (2009) by John Charles Both believe that this film was influenced by Pulp Fiction.


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

#69 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 26 March 2015 - 12:07 PM

Trio Of New Johnnie To Projects Now In Production, Including Hong Kong Historical Anthology With John Woo, Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam And More!

Read more: http://twitchfilm.co...l#ixzz3VW4UkfB6

 

 

One thing that nobody will ever be able to accuse Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To of is being lazy. An incredibly prolific and genre hopping director, To frequently has multiple projects on the go simultaneously and that appears to be the case again now with Media Asia reporting that they are currently in production on a trio of projects revolving around To in various capacities.

The first of the three - as yet all untitled - projects is a new directorial effort, a crime thriller starring Louis Koo and Wallace Cheung revolving around an ex-con drawn into a heist scheme shortly after his release from prison.

The second project sees To in a producing role, overseeing a complex three director project that calls To's own directing experiment, Triangle, to mind. Frank Hui, Vicky Wong and Jevons Au Man-kit directing the stories of a trio of notorious thieves crossing from Mainland China to Hong Kong with each director handling the story of an individual thief while To and fellow producer Yau Nai-hoi oversee the process and weave the three stories into an interconnected whole.

And, finally, the third project is an eight part anthology film exploring the history of Hong Kong from the 40s to the present with segments directed by To, Tsui Hark, John Woo, Ringo Lam, Anne Hui, Sammo Hung, Yuen Woo-ping and Patrick Tam. Which is, as they say, one hell of a collection of talent right there.

No firm word yet on when these projects will be completed but all are currently underway.

 


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

#70 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 20 May 2015 - 05:48 PM

The Mission (1999: Hong Kong)
 
“I only knew what filmmaking was about when making The Mission” – Johnnie To
 
1999 was a breakout year for Johnnie To.  He started off with the underrated Where a Good Man Goes, but it was the next two films that would help raise his status as an auteur.  The commercial success of Running Out of Time was followed by the critical success of The Mission (which was not a commercial success) where he would win best director at the Hong Kong Film Awards, Golden Bauhinia Awards and Golden Horse Film.  It follows a pattern of To filming more personal projects which were funded by the more popular fare of his co-owned production company Milkyway.  The Mission was invited along with two other To titles to the Berlin Film Festival after Ulrich Gregor saw the film.  This led to more Milkyway titles being shown at various cinematic events. 
 
The Chinese title (鎗火) translates to gunfire.  I prefer the English title which refers more to the homosocial nature of the team aspects in this film (a theme also explored in other To films like PTU and Exiled). In many ways this was a typical Hong Kong production.  It took 18 days to film, cost about 320,000 American dollars (2.5 million HK dollars) to make and there was no script.  It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the results were atypical.  What was created was an elliptical, sometimes enigmatic yet energetic film about honor and languor among lower triad members.  It is among my top 50 Hong Kong movies of all-time.  
 
The film has a simple yet elegant structure to it.  You can break it into three acts, but it really consists of a prologue (five minutes), the main act (58 minutes) and a coda (21 minutes; or you can consider this the second act.)  There is a prologue which economically shows all five of the main characters who will later be hired as bodyguards.  Afterwards there is an interesting use of having the shootout start and background noises in the credits which starts the main mission.  Then there is a minor mission as the coda. 
 
The main mission which takes the majority of the film is started when a triad boss Lung (Eddy Ko Hung: The Thundering Mantis) has an attempt on his life by unknown assailants.  His brother Frank (Simon Yam: PTU) hires five bodyguards (Curtis: Anthony Wong, Roy: Francis Ng, Shin: Jackie Lui, Mike: Roy Cheung, James: Lam Suet) to protect him.  They are basically sequestered until whoever is behind the attempts on Lung is found and removed as a threat.  This means hours of just sitting around, playing pranks and doing menial chores like chauffeuring Mrs. Lung.  This is most exemplified by the most famous scene where the bodyguards kick a paper ball back and forth to each other while waiting for Mr. Lung.  It writes banal but it comes across as exhilarating as the chatter between Vincent and Jules in Pulp Fiction (itself a scene reminiscent of Shoot the Piano Player).   The scenes of boredom reminds me of pertinent aspects of several jobs that are rarely filmed such as police officers, private investigators where you have hours of tedium sometimes followed by intense life-and-death activities like the assassination attempts in this film.  
 
Small spoilers ahead in this paragraph: Surprisingly the mission is wrapped up quicker than you might realize.  However, this leads to the coda where their codes of work and honor will be tested.  To had two different endings for the film.  The bleak ending was not used because the past several post-handover films from Milkway like The Longest Nite and Expect the Unexpected had doleful endings.  He wanted to make his films lighter. 
 
This is a must watch for not just Hong Kong film fans, but anyone who studies cinema as well. Fans of action might be put off by the static compositions and use of lethargic pacing. To’s mix is akin to combining John Woo and Michelangelo Antonioni.  Where else do you see jianghu (literally translated as rivers and lakes but it is an idiom that means the fictional universe inhabited within a wuxia or gangster movie) concepts mixed with malaise?  But with this film To showed that he was an auteur and a brilliant one at that who could mix a variety of seemingly incompatible influences into a genre film and create one of the unique films of the era.  If there is a weakness to me it is the soundtrack. Sometimes the minimalist electronic beats are effective and sometimes it comes off as reminiscent of the computerized scores prevalent in the 1980s though sometimes the beat is strangely catchy.  It is but a small flaw.  The acting is superb with the intense Francis Ng among my favorites here.  The cinematography has been dissected and rightly heralded by critics.  Since it carries many To’s trademarks it helps to view this film more than once or at least pay strict attention while watching it.  Plot points are alluded to and rarely repeated more than once.  It is a challenging work and it is no wonder that this film continues to be among the top Chinese languge lists.
 
I always find cinematic connections fascinating and this film is abundant with these allusions.  To has stated “I was under the influence of Akira Kurosawa when I was shooting “The Mission.”  You can see it in To’s use of the vertical wipe as well as the use of camera movement.* Stephen Teo documents a lot of them in his monograph on Johnnie To in the book Director in Action.  But you can also see the influence of Takashi Kitano on him as well especially in Sonatine.  You can see this less explicitly in the torture scene (one of the most disturbing scenes in Sonatine to me was when the gangster was drowned by being left in the water too long, you do not get to see the result of what happens to analogous character in this film right away though another example of To’s use of elliptical technique), but much more explicit on the Tsuen Wan Shopping Mall shooting scene which paralleled the laconic and Spartan bar shootout in Sonatine which almost looks like a Civil War standoff.  The gangster malaise seen throughout this movie in common with Kitano is also familiar to fans of French auteur Jean Pierre Melville another big influence on To and John Woo.**  The split screen scene is most likely influenced by the split-screens used in Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair which also was the basis of To’s 2004 film Yesterday Once More.
 
This OOP Mei Ah R1/NTSC copy is interlaced and the picture quality suffers a bit.  The darks tend to be too dark.  I am sure this is just a port from the laserdisc.  There are three sets of subtitles: Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and English.  The English subs are pretty good.  The two audio tracks are Cantonese and Mandarin with either Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Surround 5.1.  There is a trailer for the film (strangely has some scenes sped up) and one trailer for Ringo Lam’s Victim (1999).  The only other extras under the hilariously titled Data Bank are a Synopsis and Cast & Crew in both Chinese and English.
 
This is a movie that needs to have a good BD/DVD release of.  For the States it would make a nice Criterion edition – if only Criterion treated Mainland, Taiwanese and Hong Kong films as seriously as they do Japanese.  When Johnnie To did his top 10 Criterions (this is a superlative selection, make a point to see these movies if you have not already) for the company I was hoping this meant a release of one of his films but alas nothing came of it.  At least the British Masters of Cinema put a release of Mad Detective (highly recommended; it is surprisingly R0/NTSC.) But I would love for any company to put out a remastered BD/DVD of this.

 

* Akira loved using the vertical wipe as a transaction for small shifts in time while he would use the fade for longer periods of time. His use of excess amounts of rain in scenes is well known and influenced many Hong Kong directors.  You would find countless influences in works by Johnnie To and John Woo.
 
** I find it fascinating that all three of those directors (Woo, To and Melville) have stated that they prefer and understand directing men’s character and have trouble with women’s characterizations.  All three also have similarities where they deal with gangster’s codes of conduct.  To and Woo are both fans of musicals and have wanted to direct one.   
 
Notes:
You can always find connections in To’s movies to other To films besides Lam Suet.  Some are more obvious than others while some are just small connections. The loss of fingers by an unpaying client by Roy reminded me of the finger gag in The Odd One Dies.  The video game playing reminded me of Throwdown where there it plays a more important aspect. Anthony Wong’s unusual looks is also commented in Exiled.  The boss making coffee is a scene similar to many in To’s films where food is often prepared like the robbers in Breaking News and Costello making the meal in Vengeance.
The more I watch this the more I realize that the boss Lung is controlled quite a bit by his brother.  Pay attention to who makes the calls for people to be killed (of course one can make the argument that it keeps Lung’s hands clean.)  Also pay attention to Lung’s demeanor.  In history many important figures were secondary and smartly in the shadows.  It makes you less likely for an assassination attempt.
 
Sources:
These two books below have quite a bit of information on the movie with plenty of references.  So much I was wondering what I could add that has not already been written.  Though I was able to find some connections that no one else had mentioned (that I have read.)  Stephen Teo has in depth interviews with To that is a must read for anyone interested in this director.  Bordwell goes over the cinematic aspects of the film quite well and his writings are always a joy to read.  Both of these books should be in your possession.  Both books refer to Hong Kong Panorama 1999 – 2000 (2000) which is a book I would love to have though it is difficult to find now.
Book: Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Films (2007) by Stephen Teo
Book: Planet Hong Kong (Second Edition: 2011) by David Bordwell
Interview: Senses of Cinema -- Interview: Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai (2001)
Criterionforums.com Johnnie To thread


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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#71 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 28 January 2016 - 04:44 PM

The Longest Nite (1998: Patrick Yau: Hong Kong)
 
Who is the dead body at my house?
 
Analogous to Expect The Unexpected (1998) and The Odd One Dies (1998) Patrick Yau is the nominal director but did not do the vast majority of directing for this movie (Johnnie To has stated he directed about half before To ultimately took over; I do not know how much To reshot).  It is interesting to see reviews of its time praising Yau, though unfortunately he directed only one more film The Losers Club in 2001. Yau was even nominated for Best Director for the Hong Kong Film Awards.  He has no film credits since though he has directed some Mainland TV according to To.  One wonders how much emotionally draining it was being pulled from three productions.  Hindsight is 20/20 and you can see many of Johnnie Tos trademarks and auteuristic touches here that were not as recognizable then, especially when many thought it was done by another director. 
 
The Chinese title of this film is 暗花 which translates to dark flower(s) which means the bounty offered (the successful hit price.)  The noirish The Longest Nite takes place in Macao* and covers a maze and a morass of one day and night (reminding me a little of Run All Night (2015)) of a hit man Tony (Lau Ching-wan: Expect the Unexpected, Mad Detective) and a cop Sam (Tony Leung Chiu-wai: Happy Together).  Johnnie To brings out a quite familiar thematic element of the Doppelganger (and Lam Suet) though uses it to an extreme here.  The narration** starts by explaining that there are two factions led by Mr. K and Lung in Macau mirroring the real life 14 K and Shui Fong triads.  Sam is a corrupt cop whose allegiance is to Mr. K. but is in the unenviable position of trying to prevent a 5 Million dollar hit on Mr. Lung.  While this might seem advantageous to Sam there is a puppet master, a true Godfather, in Mr. Hung, who seems to be the only one who is actually in charge (it reminds me of that great Bela Lugosi quote in Glen or Glenda Pull the string) though he has not been in Macau in over a decade. 
 
Tony (Lau Ching-wan) is a phlegmatic and sometimes suicidal hired hitman with a bald head, a tattoo and calm demeanor.  He is so enigmatic that he sometimes seems more like an archetype than an actual human analogous to a Jef Costello of Le samouraï without the sartorial skill.  He comes off not as evil as Sam, but there are no heroes here.  Lau Ching-wans acting performance is superb though.  Tony clashes pretty quickly with Sam because of Tonys aura and is given a suggestion to get out of town.  Of course we know Tony will not follow this sagacious advice.  But are there ulterior motives behind Tony being there?  And what role will Sam play in the scheme of things?
 
I am avoiding going into too much detail with the plot, but one might want to avoid the rest, except for the paragraph on the DVD discussion, if one has not seen this as there might be a couple of spoilers ahead.
 
It is amazing how much information you might miss when only watching it one time.  Subsequent rewatches make you realize there are clues planted throughout, but one has to be careful of Tos magician like misdirection.  So much is given away with the phone calls of Tony early on but we might be paying more attention to the beatings from Sam.  A casino worker throwing up was another example of carefully planned misdirection.  At first you see an overabundance of coincidences, but some of them are actually carefully planned, though it does make a few seemed overly lucky like Sam finding Maggie so quickly. 
 
There are brilliant moments throughout.  I loved the look ma no hands driving scene. One of the better scenes of intimidation deals with Tony on an elevator when he politely answers a question Did you come here to cause trouble? with a serene yes.  Would you have entered the lift with him?  Contrast this with Tommy DeVitos What do you mean I'm funny?  The cinematography is superlative with the highlights being the early moment in the dinner, another brilliant use of light with the jail scene and floating dust and of course the aforementioned mirror scene inspired by Orson Welles.  This film might have even looked better in black-and-white. 
 
There are allusions to other films throughout both past and future.  According to Johnnie To the theme was inspired by the score in Midnight Express (1978). The jail scene reminds me and many other writers of Steve McQueen bouncing the ball in The Great Escape.** The warehouse scene is a homage to The Lady From Shanghai and was used earlier in Enter the Dragon and would later be used in another superb variation in Tos Mad Detective.  The torture scenes would take new heights in his Election series though the digit manipulation is reminiscent of The Odd One Dies and prolonged abuse like the slapping scene in PTU.
 
Because of the doleful nature of this and several other Milkway films To decided to be a little lighter with both The Mission and Running Out of Time.  But I find it interesting to note that this film was the highest grossing Milkway film until Running Out of Time the following year. This is a brilliant modern-day noir with a byzantine plot that may be difficult to understand especially if you are not paying enough attention.  While this did not have Tos name on it, his touch is.  Like most of his earlier films I feel this is vastly underrated and is a good watch for any fans of crime movies though you might have to watch it twice.  You probably should watch it at least twice.       
 
I watched this with a non-anamorphic letterbox Universe Laser R0/NTSC DVD.  It is OOP.  It has a Cantonese (preferred) and Mandarin audios.  It has two Chinese subtitles (Traditional and Simplified) and an English one.  For extras it has Stars Files text (Chinese, English), a trailer, footage of the premiere (2m21s; Cantonese with no subtitles), Making of video (10m01s; Cantonese with no subtitles), NG Footage (2m58s; these are outtakes, no dialogue) and a Press Conference (6m16s; no subs though you can see Johnnie To buzz cut Lau Ching-wans hair). While the video is decent a better release of this in either DVD and/or BD would be quite welcomed with translated extras and hopefully new ones.  I do wonder why Criterion has not done a Johnnie To release. 
 
* According to Stephen Teo in his wonderful book Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Films (2007), To had thought about shooting this movie in Cuba then in Buenos Aires but settled for Macau for both budget reasons and in retaining a Latin American influenced setting.  It is also important to note that Macau would not be handed over to China until 1999 in which Hong Kong was handed over the year before this films release.  
 
** There was a preview version that did not have the initial narration, but was included afterwards because the audience found the plot confusing.  Narration is relatively rare in Johnnie Tos films with some exceptions like this and Fulltime Killer.
 
*** To is brilliant at filming little scenes of ennui analogous to Michelangelo Antonioni and passing time like the paper football match in The Mission.  Look at how many films he can incorporate a cooking scene including Breaking News or Vengeance.   
 
Keywords: Adidas, Cathay Pacific, Coca-Cola, decapitation, flashforward, head-in-a-duffel-bag, headless corpse, nudity, patsy, slow-motion, triad, warehouse.
 
Notes:
It looks like the General Post Office building in one of the earlier shots of a clock tower in Macau.  Here is an image.
There is a muzac version of Gonna Fly Now (Rocky theme song).
Spoiler: sometimes I found it hard not to think of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
 
Sources:
Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Films (2007) by Stephen Teo: This is best source on the film that I have read.  There are so many useful facts on this film, though I did find some facts from other sources listed below. 
Planet Hong Kong 2nd Edition (2011) by David Bordwell
Interview: Interview Johnnie To Cinemasie (Oct. 2004)
Shui Fong triad (wiki)
14 K triad (wiki)
Review: Love HK Film Review (Kozo 1998)
 
Other Johnnie To/Milkyway reviews from me:
Drug War (2013: Johnnie To: China/Hong Kong)
The Mission (1999: Johnnie To: Hong Kong)
The Odd One Dies (1997: Patrick Yau Tat-chi: Hong Kong)
Too Many Ways To Be No. 1 (1997: Wai Ka-fai: Hong Kong)
Triangle (2007: Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam, Johnnie To: Hong Kong)
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

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#72 BleedOrange11

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 02:00 PM

Just wanted to say thank you to Masterofoneinchpunch for all the Johnnie To mini-reviews.  I wish I had found them earlier.  I too have been slowly making my way through Johnnie To's filmography as he has recently become one of my all-time favorite directors.  I also wanted to see what sources of Johnnie To writings you recommend most--the Stephen Teo book?

 

I've seen most of his best work (24 films so far), but still have the Optimum blu-ray of Vengeance waiting for me, as well as his Tsui Hark collaborations, The Big Heat and Triangle, and Wai Ka-fai's Too Many Ways to be No. 1.  Then I am on to the rest of his Andy Lau/Sammi Cheng projects, minus Needing You..., which I surprisingly loved, especially after seeing A Moment of Romance.

 

Drug War via Netflix piqued my initial interest.  I was hooked after seeing an Election + Election 2 combo and then continually enraptured by The Mission + Exiled and Running Out of Time and so many others.  Besides those classics, my favorites are Throw Down, which is the most brilliant, heart-warming eclectic genre mash-up I've ever seen, and A Hero Never Dies, which turns the heroic bloodshed genre upside down through comedic absurdity and an epic homage to (warning: major spoiler)

Spoiler
.

 

The only ones that I did not enjoy were Lifeline and Office (although I sincerely hope that To continues experimenting with 3D and uses wider interaxials like Tsui Hark next time). I think Fulltime Killer is his most underrated, and The Odd One Dies is his most overlooked.



#73 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 05:17 PM

Just wanted to say thank you to Masterofoneinchpunch for all the Johnnie To mini-reviews.  I wish I had found them earlier.  I too have been slowly making my way through Johnnie To's filmography as he has recently become one of my all-time favorite directors.  I also wanted to see what sources of Johnnie To writings you recommend most--the Stephen Teo book?

 

I've seen most of his best work (24 films so far), but still have the Optimum blu-ray of Vengeance waiting for me, as well as his Tsui Hark collaborations, The Big Heat and Triangle, and Wai Ka-fai's Too Many Ways to be No. 1.  Then I am on to the rest of his Andy Lau/Sammi Cheng projects, minus Needing You..., which I surprisingly loved, especially after seeing A Moment of Romance.

 

Drug War via Netflix piqued my initial interest.  I was hooked after seeing an Election + Election 2 combo and then continually enraptured by The Mission + Exiled and Running Out of Time and so many others.  Besides those classics, my favorites are Throw Down, which is the most brilliant, heart-warming eclectic genre mash-up I've ever seen, and A Hero Never Dies, which turns the heroic bloodshed genre upside down through comedic absurdity and an epic homage to (warning: major spoiler) ...

 

The only ones that I did not enjoy were Lifeline and Office (although I sincerely hope that To continues experimenting with 3D and uses wider interaxials like Tsui Hark next time). I think Fulltime Killer is his most underrated, and The Odd One Dies is his most overlooked.

 

Thank you.  I definitely recommend the Stephen Teo book.  I also recommend getting the 2nd edition of Planet Hong Kong which has a chapter dedicated to To.  Unfortunately it is pdf only (small exception is a limited batch of paperbacks that were released.)  What really stinks is that so many interviews that I had links to on the first post are no longer in existence.  Some of them were around for years and then poof, gone.  But as I have mentioned on Kung Fu Forum (previously known as KFC) there is still lots of room for To books to be written.

 

I'm going to eventually rewatch Fulltime Killer.  It was one of the first Johnnie To films I saw.  Knowing much more about To as well as Andy Lau I think I will probably have a different outlook on it.  My latest large review (non-To) is God of Gamblers (check out my top 50 HK thread where I have tons of HK related reviews) which also not-surprisingly has some Weekend at Bernies moments, and I am debating on doing All for the Winner next.  But I've been meaning to rewatch A Hero Never Dies and when I do I will do a full length review.

 

Out of what you mentioned I have not seen Office and A Moment of Romance. Interesting comparison to Tsui Hark.  When you watch The Big Heat you might wonder how much Hark had in the making of it.  However, with Triangle it is just the first segment that Hark does, Ringo Lam's segment is quite good.
 


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

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#74 BleedOrange11

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Posted 21 March 2016 - 09:24 PM

Thank you!  I've got the Teo book coming in the mail now and will search for the Planet Hong Kong pdf.

 

I found Fulltime Killer to be tremendously playful and charming, in the same vein as Running Out of Time, and a fun love letter to action-movie cinema (Note: a commentary that spots 15+ references but misses Rear Window).  However, the ending could have used a better transition.  The pace of the movie changes very abruptly when

Spoiler
, and I think that confusion causes viewers' emotions to crash too early, reducing the impact of the amazing Metal Slug-inspired finale and twist ending.  I had a great time with it despite the hiccup.

 

I will check out God of Gamblers sometime.  Thanks for the recommendation.  That is possibly the only Wong Jing movie I'm interested in.  I'll look forward to your AHND review.

 

Office, I could only recommend with caution to To completionists like us.  The set design is certainly remarkable, but apart from Chow Yun-fat's brief screen presence, the characters completely failed to grip me.  I'm blaming Sylvia Chang's script for not spending enough time investing in each of their backstories.  The music, except for a song or two, was equally dull, which is kind of a death sentence for a musical, and I found myself hoping it would end around the halfway point.  I'd love to see a Demy-inspired, To passion-project musical one day.  After experiencing Sparrow, I know he is capable of something special, but unfortunately Office is not it.  Also, the 3D has incredibly weak depth and no effort is made to incorporate z-axis movement into the cinematography or storyline at all, so that was disappointing for me after reading an interview with To saying he was excited to experiment with the medium.

 

A Moment of Romance was quite fun despite all the melodrama.  It embraces the "innocent schoolgirl loves bad boy triad" stereotype to the extreme and is overflowing with late 80s cantopop style and music.  There are some great action set pieces with cars and motorcycles, especially at the beginning, and it's easy to see why Andy Lau's performance defined his early career.

 

It seems like Tsui Hark has influenced the careers of so many top Hong Kong directors.  I saw an interview where Johnnie To said that up until Tsui wanted him to make The Big Heat, he had no interest in the action crime genre, preferring martial arts instead.  I know they were ultimately unable to work together, but I find it interesting that it was Tsui who pushed To into what would later become his trademark.  For all the zany incoherent, yet spectacular work Tsui does on film, it seems like his biggest influence is as a producer, helping other directors reach their potential.  I'm looking forward to The Big Heat, and need to catch a few more Hark and Lam essentials before Triangle.



#75 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 22 March 2016 - 02:16 PM

Thank you!  I've got the Teo book coming in the mail now and will search for the Planet Hong Kong pdf.

 

I found Fulltime Killer to be tremendously playful and charming, in the same vein as Running Out of Time, and a fun love letter to action-movie cinema (Note: a commentary that spots 15+ references but misses Rear Window).  However, the ending could have used a better transition.  The pace of the movie changes very abruptly when

Spoiler
, and I think that confusion causes viewers' emotions to crash too early, reducing the impact of the amazing Metal Slug-inspired finale and twist ending.  I had a great time with it despite the hiccup.

 

I will check out God of Gamblers sometime.  Thanks for the recommendation.  That is possibly the only Wong Jing movie I'm interested in.  I'll look forward to your AHND review.

 

Office, I could only recommend with caution to To completionists like us.  The set design is certainly remarkable, but apart from Chow Yun-fat's brief screen presence, the characters completely failed to grip me.  I'm blaming Sylvia Chang's script for not spending enough time investing in each of their backstories.  The music, except for a song or two, was equally dull, which is kind of a death sentence for a musical, and I found myself hoping it would end around the halfway point.  I'd love to see a Demy-inspired, To passion-project musical one day.  After experiencing Sparrow, I know he is capable of something special, but unfortunately Office is not it.  Also, the 3D has incredibly weak depth and no effort is made to incorporate z-axis movement into the cinematography or storyline at all, so that was disappointing for me after reading an interview with To saying he was excited to experiment with the medium.

 

A Moment of Romance was quite fun despite all the melodrama.  It embraces the "innocent schoolgirl loves bad boy triad" stereotype to the extreme and is overflowing with late 80s cantopop style and music.  There are some great action set pieces with cars and motorcycles, especially at the beginning, and it's easy to see why Andy Lau's performance defined his early career.

 

It seems like Tsui Hark has influenced the careers of so many top Hong Kong directors.  I saw an interview where Johnnie To said that up until Tsui wanted him to make The Big Heat, he had no interest in the action crime genre, preferring martial arts instead.  I know they were ultimately unable to work together, but I find it interesting that it was Tsui who pushed To into what would later become his trademark.  For all the zany incoherent, yet spectacular work Tsui does on film, it seems like his biggest influence is as a producer, helping other directors reach their potential.  I'm looking forward to The Big Heat, and need to catch a few more Hark and Lam essentials before Triangle.

 

Nice response.  It is fun reading on Hong Kong cinema, especially non-martial arts (I love martial arts, but there is enough on that at Kung Fu Fandom which I believe you are a member as well.)  A Moment of Romance is one I definitely need to eventually see (as well as its sequels), but I would like Office as well (have not liked the prices I have seen.)  I'll keep your comments in mind when I get to the films.

 

I am hit and miss with Wong Jing, but I think whoever gets into Hong Kong cinema cannot avoid him even if that person is just into Jackie Chan (City Hunter) or Jet Li (High Risk, Kung Fu Cult Master) or Stephen Chow (Royal Tramp).  But he has some films that are worth watching even if they do not star a big star like his early Shaw Brothers films or say My School Mate, The Barbarian.

 

Now, with Planet Hong Kong, there is a book for the first version, but it lacks several new chapters, the fixes and my name in the "Thanks" section.

 

The gambling genre was so popular for a few years in Hong Kong and generally they are fun films, though I got annoyed by some of the animal violence (fake thank goodness) in some of the later ones.

 

For Ringo Lam: make sure you see City on Fire and Full Contact if you have not already.  I still need to see several of his more popular films like Prison on Fire.  One of the fun aspects of Hong Kong cinema is that it is never ending :D.

 

Weird enough, I did not like Andy Lau initially.  He grew on me (like Tom Cruise in his later roles) over the years.

 


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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#76 BleedOrange11

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Posted 22 March 2016 - 08:09 PM

Honestly, I've only become interested in Asian cinema within the last year or two.  So far, I've only delved deep into Johnnie To's work and Tsui Hark's 3D movies and a few of Wong Kar Wai's and Derek Yee's and bounced around to some other classics like Infernal Affairs and The Killer and Lust, Cation, so I have a lot of good Hong Kong movies left to watch.  I think my list is over 200+.

 

What did you contribute to the "Planet Hong Kong" book?



#77 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 23 March 2016 - 11:58 AM

Honestly, I've only become interested in Asian cinema within the last year or two.  So far, I've only delved deep into Johnnie To's work and Tsui Hark's 3D movies and a few of Wong Kar Wai's and Derek Yee's and bounced around to some other classics like Infernal Affairs and The Killer and Lust, Cation, so I have a lot of good Hong Kong movies left to watch.  I think my list is over 200+.

 

What did you contribute to the "Planet Hong Kong" book?

 

I just gave him a list of errors (a couple of times for both versions) and he put me in the thanks area.  I've liked all the Bordwell books I have read.

 

I loved seeing the first two Infernal Affairs.  Francis Ng's performance in the second is quite good.

 

I still have not see Lust, Caution, though I consider that more of a Taiwanese film, though I do like Ang Lee as a director (hmmm seen 7 of his films, really would like to see Pushing Hands).
 


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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